B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Players of All Time
Is LeBron James already a top-10 player in NBA history?
Those are three of the many questions we'll answer while looking at the Association's top 100 players of all time.
This is about more than those few standouts who still suit up in the Association, though studs like Bryant, James and Tim Duncan will certainly be included. We're interested in how all the legends of the five positions compare to one another.
We're not just concerned with the best peaks. It's not about the longest careers. Instead, we're interested in the strength of an entire career that is evaluated largely by using numbers. But the prominence of metrics and advanced statistics doesn't mean context can be thrown out the window either.
Note: All stats come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current through March 21 unless otherwise indicated. That's also the source of positional decisions throughout this series of articles. Whichever position a player is listed at for the majority of the seasons in his career is where he'll be placed in the series.
Important: Glossary of New Metrics That Factor into Evaluation
Though this article will rely heavily on established advanced metrics like win shares, player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and more, I've also developed a new set of performance metrics that can be used to compare players across eras.
As you'll soon see, these metrics will be displayed for every featured player, and they'll be discussed quite often throughout the descriptions of the players in question. Therefore, it's best to familiarize yourself with them now.
Understanding the exact calculations is unnecessary for these purposes, but do take the time to understand the principles and purposes, as that will allow you to fully grasp the justifications for the order of this countdown.
With traditional metrics, we can gauge how well a player performed during the regular season throughout his career. But with these new ones, we have insight into his playoff performances, as well as how valuable he was to his team and throughout the league in general.
Playoff Performance (PP)
Derived by multiplying game score by the number of playoff appearances, this simply shows the strength of a player's statistical production during the postseason. It rewards both quality of play and longevity, as the top scores are only achieved by maintaining excellent performances over the course of multiple deep playoff runs.
Advancement Share (AS)
This shows how deep a player advanced into the playoffs. Different rounds are weighted differently—250 possible points for a title, 100 for an unsuccessful appearance in the NBA finals and 50 for a conference finals exit—but not every player earns all the possible points.
To recognize that some players are bigger contributors than others, the advancement scores are weighted by how much time a player spends on the court. Someone who wins a title but plays only 20 minutes per game will receive a lower percentage of the possible points than a teammate who played 35 minutes per contest.
As a result, this shows both playoff success and relative importance during the run of the player in question.
Career Contributions (CC)
Win shares are supposed to be an approximation of how many wins a player provided to his team during a given season, so dividing win shares by team wins should give an estimate of the percentage of value that player was responsible for. Multiplying that by how successful a team was that year (based on TeamRtng+, a combination of DRtng+ and ORtng+) accounts for both a player's value and the strength of the team he was contributing to.
Career Contributions sums a player's scores for every season of his career, showing how much value he provided during his NBA life.
Career Contributions per Season (CC/Season)
This shows the number of Career Contributions that a player earned during an average season. It's no more complicated than that.
Literal MVPs (LMVPs)
MVP literally stands for "Most Valuable Player," though the award is usually given to the best player on one of the best teams, depending on the narrative, the glamorous play of the candidate and other factors. A Literal MVP, or LMVP, is given instead to the player with the top Career Contributions value during the season in question.
An LMVP can go to a player on the best team in the league, but it can also be handed to a player who was essentially a one-man wrecking crew on one of the bottom feeders. The strength of the team doesn't matter, save for the Career Contributions calculation.
Literal MVP Shares (LMVP Shares)
Rather than only rewarding the LMVP, we're giving credit to every player who was the top contributor for his team during a given season. Team-leading win-share producers were sorted by Career Contributions, then they were handed LMVP shares according to their finish on that leaderboard.
The LMVP himself gets a full LMVP share. Second place receives 0.5 LMVP shares. Third place gets 0.33 LMVP shares, and so on and so forth.
This appears in the information of each slide, and it's a method of representing a player's peak. Rather than arbitrarily selecting his best season, we're meshing together the best performances of his career for each per-game stat.
That means his points per game could come from his rookie year, while his rebounds per game could be drawn from a season five years down the road. The only qualifier is that he must have played in at least 30 games during the season in question, thereby avoiding small-sample-size effects.
Who Just Missed the Cut?
Do note that these players aren't necessarily the ones who would take the spots if we extended these rankings to feature 125 historical stars. Many certainly would, but the men featured below are simply the ones who received a ranked spot in the positional portion of this series and couldn't make the final cut for the overall top 100.
In each case, you can click on the position header and see more information on these de facto honorable mentions.
- Sam Cassell, No. 21 PG
- Rajon Rondo, No. 22 PG
- Dave Bing, No. 23 PG
- Jo Jo White, No. 24 PG
- Calvin Murphy, No. 25 PG
- Jeff Hornacek, No. 20 SG
- Earl Monroe, No. 21 SG
- Pete Maravich, No. 22 SG
- Alvin Robertson, No. 23 SG
- Eddie Jones, No. 24 SG
- Gail Goodrich, No. 25 SG
- Marques Johnson, No. 24 SF
- Connie Hawkins, No. 25 SF
- Vern Mikkelsen, No. 18 PF
- Amar'e Stoudemire, No. 19 PF
- Elton Brand, No. 20 PF
- Otis Thorpe, No. 21 PF
- Shawn Kemp, No. 22 PF
- Horace Grant, No. 23 PF
- Harry Gallatin, No. 24 PF
- Terry Cummings, No. 25 PF
- Nate Thurmond, No. 22 C
- Willis Reed, No. 23 C
- Bob McAdoo, No. 24 C
- Alonzo Mourning, No. 25 C
100. Mark Price
Years Played: 1986-98
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic
Positional Rank: No. 20 PG
Few players have ever been better at shooting the ball than Mark Price, who might have fared even better had he played a decade later in an era that more heavily promoted long-range attempts.
Nonetheless, he shot 47.2 percent from the field throughout his career and joins Steve Nash as one of only two qualified players in NBA history who made both 40 percent of their triples and 90 percent of their freebies. Plus, he's a member of the 50-40-90 club, working his way in during the 1987-88 season.
Price, legendary shooter that he was, is ultimately held back from even higher placement due to his all-around limitations and a dearth of playoff success. When his shot wasn't falling, it was tough for him to make a huge impact, and he only advanced as far as the Eastern Conference Finals once in his enduringly impressive career.
Price's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.6 PER, .586 TS%, 116 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 71.1 WS, 0.158 WS/48, 0.107 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 672.57 PP, 36.98 AS, 162.22 CC, 13.52 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.273 LMVP Shares
99. Tim Hardaway
Years Played: 1989-2003
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers
Positional Rank: No. 19 PG
A crossover virtuoso, Tim Hardaway—no, not the Tim Hardaway Jr. currently playing with the New York Knicks—was remarkably difficult to stay in front of during his prime. He could dazzle with his dribbles and use his speed to work his way past almost every defender.
Much like Mark Price, this point guard had trouble advancing deep into the postseason, but he had the advantage of having a more well-rounded game. Not only was he more valuable to his teams than our No. 11 player, but he achieved that level of value in different ways.
Hardaway was by no means the efficient sniper Price was, but his passing was far better. Even looking past his lifetime 8.2 assists per game, he posted an assist percentage that was 1.8 percent higher than Price's. Plus, Hardaway played 145 more regular-season games than Price, which boosts his stock even further ahead.
Hardaway's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 23.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 10.6 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .530 TS%, 110 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 85.0 WS, 0.133 WS/48, 0.336 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 703.36 PP, 42.92 AS, 200.29 CC, 15.41 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.264 LMVP Shares
98. Walt Bellamy
Years Played: 1961-75
Teams: Chicago Packers, Chicago Zephyrs, Baltimore Bullets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz
Positional Rank: No. 21 C
Walt Bellamy's numbers are absolutely fantastic in a context-free vacuum, but that's not how we're analyzing the top 100 players in NBA history. His lifetime averages may stand out in a positive way, but reality doesn't allow for them to shine quite so brightly.
After all, Bellamy played on a number of lackluster teams, and while it didn't allow him to advance deep into the postseason, it did make him remain extremely valuable to them. His 25.18 Career Contributions per season are actually the No. 12 average throughout the annals of the Association. However, they're inflated both by a lack of supporting cast and the era in which he played.
As an example, when pace is factored out of the equation, Bellamy's total rebounding percentage is a solid 16.1 percent. Drew Gooden, he of the lifetime 7.3 rebounds per game, actually had an identical total rebounding percentage heading into the 2014-15 campaign, if that puts things into a bit more perspective.
Obviously, Bellamy was still great. But let him serve as an example that some of the premerger numbers you'll see throughout these rankings require a few shakes of salt.
Bellamy's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 31.6 points, 19.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.8 PER, .554 TS%, 99 DRtg, 130.0 WS, 0.160 WS/48, 0.002 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 826.62 PP, 87.17 AS, 352.48 CC, 25.18 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.85 LMVP Shares
97. Lenny Wilkens
Years Played: 1960-75
Teams: St. Louis Hawks, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers
Positional Rank: No. 18 PG
Lenny Wilkens wasn't as valuable to his teams as Walt Bellamy was, especially during their respective primes, but he had the fortune of playing on squads that were largely more successful. He also lined up at a position that was more scarce in talent, leading to nine All-Star appearances—five more than Bellamy.
The southpaw never truly excelled in any one area, but his decade-long run of quality play, most of which came with the St. Louis Hawks and Seattle SuperSonics, allows him to stand out rather nicely. He did lead the league in assists during the 1969-70 campaign, averaging 9.1 per game. Even then, he coupled his passing efforts with 17.8 points and five boards during the average contest.
Pushing Wilkens firmly over the top is how often he moved deep into the postseason. While he didn't rack up titles or appearances in the conference finals, he got further—and played more while doing so—than Bellamy did by a rather large margin.
Wilkens' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 16.8 PER, .511 TS%, 100 DRtg, 95.5 WS, 0.120 WS/48, 0.323 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 851.2 PP, 231.62 AS, 240.92 CC, 16.06 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.559 LMVP Shares
96. Billy Cunningham
Years Played: 1965-76
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Carolina Cougars (ABA)
Positional Rank: No. 23 SF
With enough smooth athleticism that he earned "The Kangaroo Kid" as his nickname, Billy Cunningham was both one of the most entertaining players in the 1960s and 1970s and one of the best. He was a scoring and rebounding maestro, and he wasn't too shabby on the defensive end. Though his days in the ABA don't technically count, it's still noteworthy that this small forward led the lesser league in total steals during the 1972-73 season, when they were tracked for the very first time.
Cunningham is one of only 17 players in NBA history who has averaged 20 and 10 throughout his career, and the list is littered with Hall of Famers. The problem is he did so while playing in only 654 career NBA games, thanks to both his time in the ABA and a non-contact knee injury that forced him into early retirement after his age-32 season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Had he enjoyed a longer career, Cunningham would certainly shoot up the ranks. As it stands, he's one of the players most affected by the decision to rank these players by their entire NBA tenures and not just the excellence of their peaks.
Cunningham's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.1 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.4 PER, .503 TS%, 96 DRtg, 63.2 WS, 0.135 WS/48, 0.288 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 568.23 PP, 164.58 AS, 144.63 CC, 16.07 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.243 LMVP Shares
95. Mitch Richmond
Years Played: 1988-2002
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers
Positional Rank: No. 19 SG
Though he was most famous for his days playing alongside Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, forming the Run TMC trio for the Golden State Warriors, Mitch Richmond was actually at his best when he joined the Sacramento Kings. After all, that's where he made all six of his All-Star appearances—in a seven-year span, no less—and kept averaging at least 20 points per game one season after another.
In a one-year vacuum, Billy Cunningham was the better player, and it's undeniable that he experienced more playoff success than Richmond, who advanced past the first round of the playoffs only three times. One of those runs led to a ring with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the shooting guard only logged four minutes of action throughout the entire 2002 postseason.
Nonetheless, Richmond was quite valuable during his career, individually providing about one-seventh of his team's wins during the average season and playing for such a long time that he racked up over 1.5 times the Career Contributions earned by Cunningham. His 0.515 LMVP Shares are more than double the small forward's total as well, and they leave him ranked No. 101 all-time.
Richmond's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 25.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.6 PER, .557 TS%, 110 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 79.3 WS, 0.111 WS/48, 0.009 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 314.64 PP, 10.42 AS, 231.97 CC, 16.6 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.515 LMVP Shares
94. Detlef Schrempf
Years Played: 1985-2001
Teams: Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers
Positional Rank: No. 22 SF
The proud owner of a 58.6 true shooting percentage throughout his career, Detlef Schrempf remains one of the most overlooked marksmen throughout the history of the Association. He was especially potent from beyond the arc at the end of his lengthy career. Over his final seven seasons in the league, he shot 48.7 percent from the field, 42 percent on three-pointers and 82 percent at the charity stripe.
But Schrempf's playoff resume is what pushes him ahead of Mitch Richmond, even if it doesn't typically get too much credit since he never won a title and only advanced to the NBA Finals once—when he was playing with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1995-96.
During his 16-year career, Schrempf made it to the postseason on 14 separate occasions, and he was usually quite effective when he got there. One of only 134 players in NBA history with a four-digit Playoff Performance score, the small forward from Germany was particularly good during his prime, even if his teammates weren't up for any heavy lifting. From 1990 to 1995, he averaged 18.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in the playoffs, though it was never enough for him to get out of the first round.
Schrempf's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.2 PER, .586 TS%, 117 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 109.5 WS, 0.156 WS/48, 0.001 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1071.6 PP, 133.03 AS, 250.6 CC, 15.66 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.125 LMVP Shares
93. Chris Webber
Years Played: 1993-2008
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons
Positional Rank: No. 17 PF
In terms of sheer talent, Chris Webber was much better than this rank might indicate. He appeared to be a potentially transcendent player during the late 1990s and early 2000s, even averaging 24.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks per game for a five-year prime stretch.
But Webber never played how he needed to, choosing to strive for flashiness and seemingly taking aim at the way forwards were viewed. He came around long before the stretch 4 was a widely accepted position, although that didn't stop him from trying to function as one.
He stopped operating out of the post as frequently, and it didn't allow him to maintain his peak numbers for all that long. Instead, he tailed off sharply after leaving the Sacramento Kings, enjoying one great season with the Philadelphia 76ers before virtually disappearing from the ranks of stars.
Even with a 20.9 PER and five All-NBA selections to his credit, he was just never valuable enough to move up any higher. Not only did he experience little to no playoff success, but he averaged more Career Contributions than only five other players in the entire top 100.
Webber's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.4 blocks
Ultimate Season: 27.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.9 PER, .513 TS%, 104 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 84.7 WS, 0.132 WS/48, 0.588 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1114.4 PP, 69.73 AS, 199.45 CC, 13.3 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.23 LMVP Shares
92. David Thompson
Years Played: 1976-84
Teams: Denver Nuggets (ABA and NBA), Seattle SuperSonics
Positional Rank: No. 18 SG
"I'm confident just like they are," David Thompson told Bleacher Report's David Daniels in November of 2013, claiming he could beat Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in one-on-one clashes. "We all would think we would win. I'm the same way. I was really good at one-on-one. That was my strong suit. Anytime you can score 73 points in a ballgame, you got to have some good one-on-one skills."
Few shooting guards have ever been better on the offensive end than the man who could fly so high it often seemed as though he was walking through the sky. His athletic exploits and smooth scoring ability made him an idol of Jordan's, and they also allowed him to assert himself as a dominant force.
The biggest issue on his resume is simply a lack of playing time. Thompson spent the first season of his career with the ABA's Denver Nuggets, and after experiencing some recurring injury issues and struggling with substance abuse late in his playing days, he retired after his age-29 season with only 509 games to his credit.
Thompson's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 22.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks
Ultimate Season: 27.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.7 PER, .566 TS%, 111 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 50.8 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.154 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 379.08 PP, 38.54 AS, 116.25 CC, 14.53 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares
91. Jack Twyman
Years Played: 1955-66
Teams: Rochester/Cincinnati Royals
Positional Rank: No. 21 SF
This small forward was by no means a flashy player, instead functioning as a brutally efficient scorer who could put the ball through the twine in just about every way imaginable. As a result, Jack Twyman was quite valuable to his teams, shouldering so much responsibility for the Royals franchise that he's one of only 59 players with more than one LMVP Share to his credit.
But the problem, as with many players from this era, is the presence of some massively inflated statistics. The game was played at a much quicker pace during the early days of the Association, which allowed for more scoring and rebounding opportunities, even if assists were handed out more stringently.
The other issue is a distinct lack of playoff success during a time in which there weren't too many teams and winning just a few rounds was enough to take home a title. Based on how far he went into the playoffs and how much he played during those runs, his Advancement Share is still only better than the scores of 16 ranked players.
Twyman's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Ultimate Season: 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 17.8 PER, .502 TS%, 75 WS, 0.138 WS/48, 0.066 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 436.22 PP, 72.29 AS, 231.63 CC, 21.06 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.033 LMVP Shares
90. Paul Westphal
Years Played: 1972-84
Teams: Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, New York Knicks
Positional Rank: No. 17 SG
Efficiency wasn't as important during Paul Westphal's playing days as it is today, but the term still went hand-in-hand with the shooting guard's career-long production.
Only 47 individual seasons recorded between 1976-77 and 1979-80 saw a player top 20 points per game while shooting at least 50 percent from the field. Westphal, George Gervin and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the only three to qualify each year during that span, and the former was one of only five guards to make it onto the list even once.
Westphal's peak as a scorer didn't last for too long, and he was one of the worst rebounders in NBA history, at least among this class of star players. However, his passing chops and efficiency allowed him to carve out an impressive career all the same, as both his 19.4 PER and 0.155 win shares per 48 minutes are quite impressive.
Westphal's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.4 PER, .558 TS%, 109 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 67.7 WS, 0.155 WS/48, 0.014 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 864.56 PP, 219.85 AS, 154.01 CC, 12.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.539 LMVP Shares
89. Larry Nance
Years Played: 1981-94
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers
Positional Rank: No. 16 PF
Larry Nance and Paul Westphal are great examples of how playoff success doesn't always have to be determined by how far a player advances into the competition. While the latter has a total of 219.85 Advancement Shares that makes the former's 80.51 pale in comparison, it's actually Nance who has the higher Playoff Performance score: 994.16 to 864.56.
What does that mean? Nance was more important to his teams, as he wasn't by better teammates.
Brutal. Powerful. Devastating. Intimidating.
Pick an adjective like that, and it probably applies to Nance. He was a ferocious dunking machine who loved nothing more than taking out his frustration on the rim. And his passion for physicality carried over to the defensive end, where he made players fear his presence in the paint. He wanted to contest everything, just as dunks were always on his mind.
Nance's peak wasn't insanely impressive, but his longevity and consistent levels of passion definitely were.
Nance's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.9 PER, .586 TS%, 116 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 109.6 WS, 0.171 WS/48, 0.004 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 994.16 PP, 80.51 AS, 264.93 CC, 20.38 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.76 LMVP Shares
88. Dave DeBusschere
Years Played: 1962-74
Teams: Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks
Positional Rank: No. 15 PF
One of the greatest defenders of all time, Dave DeBusschere was a six-time member of the All-Defensive Team and still managed to put together fantastic numbers on the glass while serving as a consistently effective scorer. Effective, not efficient, as this particular power forward has a 47.2 true shooting percentage that remains one of the lowest marks of any top-100 player.
And making those six All-Defensive Team selections even more impressive? Well, he only had six chances to earn them, as the team was created midway through his career, one defined by hard-nosed and versatile work on the less glamorous end of the floor.
DeBusschere was one of the original no-stats All-Stars, doing all the little things that didn't necessarily lead to box-score statistics or win shares. That's a large part of the reason he was on so many successful teams, helping lift the New York Knicks to the only two championships in the long-tenured history of the franchise.
DeBusschere's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 18.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 15.5 PER, .472 TS%, 60.8 WS, 0.093 WS/Season, 0.014 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1372.8 PP, 579.53 AS, 151.35 CC, 12.61 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.1 LMVP Shares
87. Bill Walton
Years Played: 1974-87
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 20 C
This may be the first ranking that actually shocks many of you.
Bill Walton was an unquestioned Hall of Famer, a player who's commonly viewed as one of the 30 best of all time. A terrific two-way big, he's the center who was responsible for one of the greatest two-year runs of all time, when he carried the Portland Trail Blazers to a title in 1977 and then dominated the following season.
But this is about careers, and a two-year run—no matter how good it may have been—only matters so much. Ultimately, Walton played in just 468 career games due to his litany of injuries, and save his first season with the San Diego Clippers, he simply wasn't a dominant player after leaving Rip City behind.
Over the last five campaigns of his career, which make up more than half of his games played, he posted just 10 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, earning a 17.4 PER that's only a tad higher than the league average.
Walton's 9.41 Career Contributions per season are the only single-digit mark of any top-100 player. No player earned fewer total Career Contributions, and even with his incredible title run in 1977, his Advancement Shares and Playoff Performance score are by no means among the elites.
At his best, Walton was one of the 25 greatest players in NBA history. But unfortunately, injuries prevented him from being at his best for the vast majority of his career.
Walton's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 18.9 points, 14.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.6 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, .551 TS%, 103 ORtg, 96 DRtg, 39.3 WS, 0.142 WS/48, 0.522 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 603.19 PP, 362.2 AS, 94.14 CC, 9.41 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.14 LMVP Shares
86. Chris Bosh
Years Played: 2003-Current
Teams: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat
Positional Rank: No. 14 PF
Let's run a direct comparison of Chris Bosh and Bill Walton's performance metrics:
It's just not even close, and that doesn't change when you look at more traditional advanced stats. Bosh's 20.6 PER trumps Walton's flat 20, they both have a pair of rings, and the modern big man's 0.158 win shares per 48 minutes are far better than his older counterpart's 0.142.
Seeing Bosh ahead of Walton might be a bit strange. After all, Walton's peak was vastly superior to Bosh's, even if the current Miami Heat star has both dominated as a team leader and fit in perfectly as a third wheel on a championship-winning squad. But Bosh's career as a whole is quite a bit better, especially since he's dominating the rate statistics and metrics while playing over 300 additional games (and counting).
Once Bosh recovers fully from the blood clots in his lungs, he'll get right back to proving just that.
Bosh's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.6 PER, .571 TS% 113 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 99.7 WS, 0.159 WS/48
Performance Metrics: 1143.65 PP, 480 AS, 239.94 CC, 21.81 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.66 LMVP Shares
85. Neil Johnston
Years Played: 1951-59
Teams: Philadelphia Warriors
Positional Rank: No. 19 C
Neil Johnston was the very definition of a one-man team during the 1950s, flat-out carrying the Philadelphia Warriors, even if it didn't lead to all that much postseason success. No player in NBA history has earned more Career Contributions per season than Johnston's 40.94. He actually racked up a record 106.7 in just a single year (his second) by earning a league-best 15.3 win shares while playing on a squad that went just 12-57.
That's the conundrum that is Johnston in a nutshell.
Again, he actually managed to earn more win shares than his team had wins, and the comparison wasn't even close in 1952-53. He's also one of just six players with at least four LMVPs to his credit, and the other five are all in the top 50 of this countdown.
With his sweeping skyhook, Johnston was a man among boys in the early days of the NBA. A back injury ended his career early, unfortunately enough, and kept him from going toe-to-toe with Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, which surely would have allowed him to earn more name recognition than he currently enjoys.
Johnston's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Ultimate Season: 24.4 points, 15.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 24.7 PER, .534 TS%, 92.0 WS, 0.241 WS/48, 0.003 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 313.26 PP, 240.68 AS, 327.49 CC, 40.94 CC/Season, 4 LMVPs, 4.67 LMVP Shares
84. Bernard King
Years Played: 1977-93
Teams: New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Washington Bullets
Positional Rank: No. 20 SF
Believe it or not, Bernard King is one of only three players ranked in the top 100 who never made it to at least the conference finals (and one is still active).
But that's only one portion of the resume, as King was still a scoring mastermind who produced plenty of points throughout his prime. He even paced the NBA in 1984-85 by averaging a jaw-dropping 32.9 points per game, highlighted by his 60-point performance on Christmas Day. It's part of the reason he was the king of New York, even if Carmelo Anthony topped his Madison Square Garden record 29 years later.
A torn ACL ruined his age-29 season and forced him to decline earlier than he might have otherwise, but he still soldiered on and continued putting up big numbers for the Washington Bullets. The lengthy nature of his career helps push him past Neil Johnston, as he played 358 more games than the big man before retiring in 1993.
King's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 32.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.2 PER, .561 TS%, 108 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 75.4 WS, 0.123 WS/48, 0.625 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 468.72 PP, 0 AS, 204.95 CC, 14.64 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.11 LMVP Shares
83. Chris Mullin
Years Played: 1985-2001
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers
Positional Rank: No. 19 SF
Chris Mullin averaged 18.2 points per game during his career, and he still shot 50.9 percent from the field, 38.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc and 86.5 percent from the charity stripe. Has anyone else managed to do that while taking at least two triples per game?
Mullin is the only one. Even if we remove free-throw shooting, he's still the only qualified player, making him one of the very best all-around marksmen in NBA history. Among the 88 players who have made at least 38.4 percent of their deep looks and taken a pair during the average game, only Mullin and the late Drazen Petrovic have a career field-goal percentage on the right side of 50 percent.
Also a solid distributor from the 3, even if he was terrible on the glass, Mullin was a bit more than a one-trick pony. Nonetheless, shooting was his biggest skill, and it allowed him to carve out important roles for the duration of his 16-season career. That, along with more playoff success and sustained value to his teams, pushes Mullin ever so slightly ahead of Bernard King in these rankings.
Mullin's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.8 PER, .594 TS%, 115 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 93.1 WS, 0.139 WS/48, 0.088 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 729.88 PP, 63.96 AS, 238.68 CC, 14.92 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.367 LMVP Shares
82. Bobby Jones
Years Played: 1976-86
Teams: Denver Nuggets (ABA and NBA), Philadelphia 76ers
Positional Rank: No. 13 PF
When he wasn't hitting the links and racking up birdies (just kidding, that was a different man with the same name), Bobby Jones was locking down on the defensive end and asserting himself as one of the greatest point-preventing power forwards in NBA history. The No. 13 player at his position in our rankings, Jones made nine All-Defensive squads in 10 NBA seasons, adding another of the ABA variety earlier in his career, though that doesn't technically count here.
Jones was never a scoring threat, nor do his rebounding numbers stand out. He was just dynamite on defense, shutting down virtually any man who was assigned to him and serving as the glue on some highly competitive Philadelphia 76ers squads.
Still, he provided some value because he was a remarkably selective shooter who has one of the 15 best true shooting percentages in NBA history. Anything over 60 is nothing to sniff at, even if it came in smaller doses because Jones focused nearly all his energy on the other end of the court.
Jones' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 15.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.9 PER, .604 TS%, 115 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 73.7 WS, 0.175 WS/48, 0.004 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1303.75 PP, 305.32 AS, 146.2 CC, 14.62 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.125 LMVP Shares
81. Ben Wallace
Years Played: 1996-2012
Teams: Washington Bullets, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
Positional Rank: No. 18 C
Ben Wallace, one of three top-100 players who averaged less than 10 points per game throughout his career, was by no means an offensive talent. He even struggled catching entry passes and finishing around the hoop, leaving his teams playing four-on-five whenever he was present. But he was still so good at defense that it didn't matter.
A four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Wallace was one of the most intimidating rim protectors in NBA history, anchoring the historically excellent defense of the championship-winning Detroit Pistons in the mid-2000s. He was capable of completely shutting down the paint, and he remains an unquestioned legend on that end.
"I didn't get to see [Bill] Russell or [Wilt] Chamberlain, but I can't remember a guy that wreaks so much havoc of the court like Ben does," former Pistons president and NBA legend in his own right Joe Dumars said after Wallace was granted his fourth DPOY, per The Associated Press (via ESPN). "Olajuwon and Mutombo were great defenders, but they only guarded centers. Ben can basically guard 1s through 5s, and the closest guy I saw do that was Dennis Rodman."
Wallace's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.0 blocks
Ultimate Season: 9.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 3.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 15.5 PER, .474 TS%, 106 ORtg, 96 DRtg, 93.5 WS, 0.140 WS/48, 0.066 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1398.8 PP, 402.8 AS, 217.32 CC, 13.58 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.16 LMVP Shares
80. Maurice Cheeks
Years Played: 1978-93
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets
Positional Rank: No. 17 PG
Much like Ben Wallace, Maurice Cheeks was not a traditional player who thrived when he was putting up impressive box-score statistics. He was just another great defensive player, one of the all-time leaders in the steals category who made five All-Defensive squads throughout his impressive career.
He also helped lead a team to a title, when he was a key figure on the 1982-83 Philadelphia squad and averaged 16.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game during his 13 postseason outings. He was by no means the best player on that roster, but he was still a crucial member of the starting five night in and night out.
But what pushes Cheeks ahead of Wallace is his offensive game. Whereas the big man was a complete liability on that end of the floor, the point guard was an adequate and efficient scorer who could pile up assists in the blink of an eye. Highlighted by his 9.2 assists per game in 1985-86, Cheeks put up at least six dimes during the average contest every year from 1979 through 1989.
Cheeks' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 11.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 16.5 PER, .572 TS%, 116 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 103.5 WS, 0.143 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1871.31 PP, 424.95 AS, 214.26 CC, 14.28 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares
79. Cliff Hagan
Years Played: 1956-66
Teams: St. Louis Hawks, Dallas Chaparrals (ABA)
Positional Rank: No. 18 SF
Cliff Hagan is undoubtedly one of the best playoff performers that many modern fans aren't intimately familiar with. His Playoff Performance score ranks No. 10 among every small forward in NBA history, but what he did with his St. Louis Hawks was even more stellar. After all, his Advancement Share is the No. 9 mark among the same group, even if the 1958 title is the only one he managed to win.
Year after year, Hagan went deep into the postseason, even leading the league in playoff appearances five separate times. Alongside Bob Pettit, he formed an unstoppable duo, at least until he ran into the Boston Celtics buzzsaw in three different NBA Finals. But finishing as a runner-up isn't too shabby, especially given the stacked nature of those C's teams.
Hagan's regular-season numbers are quite impressive as well. The only problem is that they're more limited than they need to be, as this small forward took his talents to the ABA's Dallas Chaparrals during the final three seasons of his professional career rather than play out his days in the more difficult NBA.
Hagan's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Ultimate Season: 24.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 19.5 PER, .507 TS%, 75.1 WS, 0.166 WS/48, 0.043 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1448.1 PP, 566.46 AS, 180.35 CC, 18.03 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.167 LMVP Shares
78. Joe Dumars
Years Played: 1985-99
Teams: Detroit Pistons
Positional Rank: No. 16 SG
Much like Maurice Cheeks, Joe Dumars was a defensive specialist—just look at those five All-Defensive selections he earned—who also managed to make an impact on the offensive end. But unlike Cheeks, Dumars was well above-average on that side of the ball despite what his career 15.3 PER might indicate.
During his peak season in 1990-91, the lifetime Detroit Piston averaged an impressive 20.4 points and 5.5 assists per game, shooting 48.1 percent from the field in the process. His team wasn't able to complete a three-peat once the playoffs rolled around, but it's not as though it experienced an early exit.
And that's the other big plus for Dumars, who was right in the mix each and every year. His playoff metrics are not only quite impressive, but they indicate that he was both playing on high-quality teams and functioning as one of the main contributors year in and year out. That and his longevity help rather significantly, as Dumars was effective from his rookie season through his last year in Detroit.
Dumars' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 23.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 15.3 PER, .554 TS%, 113 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 86.2 WS, 0.118 WS/48, 0.012 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1291.36 PP, 650 AS, 202.54 CC, 14.47 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.13 LMVP Shares
77. Bill Sharman
Years Played: 1950-61
Teams: Washington Capitols, Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 15 SG
Winning four championships, even if they came while playing alongside Bill Russell, is no easy feat. Nonetheless, Bill Sharman accomplished it, building up an incredible playoff resume throughout his tenure with the Boston Celtics.
This particular 2-guard was the NBA's first truly fantastic free-throw shooter, as he led the league in free-throw percentage during seven of his 11 seasons, topping out at 93.2 percent in 1958-59. But he was also well-rounded in live action. More intelligent than anything else, he was a remarkably efficient shooter for his era and consistently tried to make a big defensive impact.
Despite playing next to Russell and the many other Hall of Famers who called Beantown home, Sharman even led the team in win shares for two consecutive seasons, including the 1956-57 season that served as the legendary center's rookie go-round. That year alone, the 2-guard produced 26.29 Career Contributions for his Celtics, which trailed only five players throughout the entire Association.
Sharman's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Ultimate Season: 22.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 18.2 PER, .497 TS%, 82.8 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 0.052 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 957.06 PP, 795.01 AS, 209.39 CC, 19.04 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.333 LMVP Shares
76. Hal Greer
Years Played: 1958-73
Teams: Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers
Positional Rank: No. 14 SG
If you can, put yourself back in the 1970s.
At the time, Michael Jordan hadn't stepped onto a professional basketball court, and many legends of the league were still either infants, unborn or not yet at the sport's highest level. During this period, as a profile from HoopHall.com makes clear, it was a certain shooting guard with a one-handed jumper who had racked up plenty of accolades in the NBA record books:
A 6-foot-2 fantastically athletic guard, Hal Greer had a sweet-shooting touch and was deadly on the fast break. Greer's career was an assault on the NBA's record books: at the time of his enshrinement, he ranked among the top ten all-time in points scored (21,586), field goals attempted (18,811), field goals made (8,504), minutes played (39,788), and personal fouls (3,825)…The only player to jump shoot his free throws, the productive Greer had logged 1,122 games when he retired from the NBA in 1973, setting another league record.
Greer did earn one title, but that's not as many as he should've won given the stacked nature of his teams, both in Syracuse and Philadelphia. He shared the court with Wilt Chamberlain and Chet Walker at one point, and he was teamed up with Dolph Schayes, Red Kerr, George Yardley and other greats earlier in his career.
Greer's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Ultimate Season: 24.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 15.7 PER, .506 TS%, 102.7 WS, 0.124 WS/48, 0.006 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1346.88 PP, 404.29 AS, 238.62 CC, 15.91 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.419 LMVP Shares
75. Manu Ginobili
Years Played: 2002-Current
Teams: San Antonio Spurs
Positional Rank: No. 13 SG
Just like Bill Sharman, Manu Ginobili has four rings in his collection. But despite playing only one additional season, the Argentine shooting guard has produced a much more impressive playoff resume, largely because he's A) been more productive and B) had more opportunities due to the increased number of series victories necessary to earn a championship during the modern era.
The old Celtic may have advanced deeper into the postseason on numerous occasions, but he was often helped there by playing with so many other legends. As an individual, Ginobili's playoff resume isn't even close to Sharman's, and that's a good thing for this particular 2-guard.
Does it matter that Ginobili has come off the bench for most of his career with the San Antonio Spurs? Not in the slightest, as he's still been on the court in crunch time and used his craftiness and Eurostepping habits to great success while playing an abundance of minutes. Few shooting guards have ever been such efficient shooters or creative passers, and Ginobili just cements that legacy each time he steps on the court.
Ginobili's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 14.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.2 PER, .587 TS%, 113 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 96.8 WS, .203 WS/48, 0.026 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2196 PP, 695.92 AS, 187.94 CC, 15.66 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.096 LMVP Shares
74. George Mikan
Years Played: 1948-56
Teams: Minneapolis Lakers
Positional Rank: No. 17 C
George Mikan was the NBA's original super-duper star, but it's quite difficult to place a player who suited up in an era that he could dominate while hobbling up and down the court with a broken leg. Seriously, that happened. And defenders were still so overmatched by his shooting touch and sheer size (6'10") that they couldn't stop him. Only rule changes—like widening the paint—could do that, and even they didn't have too large an effect.
With five rings and 2.2 LMVP Shares (No. 23 in NBA history) to his credit, there's no denying Mikan's dominance. It's just the era that leaves a massive question mark on his resume, as he didn't even last into the 1960s, when Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain came out to play. His performance metrics are unbelievable, but they contain one asterisk after another.
However, there's one aspect to his career that can't be overlooked, and it's why he ranks so far down on the leaderboard, further than all the numbers you see below might indicate. Mikan was 24 years old when he entered the BAA in 1948, and he only played seven seasons before retiring for the second and final time. With just 439 career games to his credit, he didn't suit up often enough to merit any higher placement.
Mikan's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 23.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists
Ultimate Season: 28.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 27.0 PER, .483 TS%, 108.7 WS, 0.249 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1335.6 PP, 1026.46 AS, 172.65 CC, 34.53 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.2 LMVP Shares
73. Dennis Johnson
Years Played: 1976-90
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 16 PG
Where Dennis Johnson went, success tended to follow. Don't make the mistake of thinking that each of his three rings came while he was partnered up with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, as he also won a championship while running the show for the Seattle SuperSonics. During that postseason run, the point guard averaged 20.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Still, he was a defensive player first and foremost. Though Johnson never really racked up the thefts, he settled down into that stance and just stopped players from scoring, ending up on nine All-Defensive squads throughout his career.
Johnson was never statistically vital to his teams, but his impact went beyond the box score. After all, it's always been rather difficult to quantify defensive impact, and that was undoubtedly the calling card of this particular point guard.
Johnson's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 14.6 PER, .511 TS%, 107 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 82.6 WS, 0.110 WS/48, 0.084 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2349 PP, 932.61 AS, 167.81 CC, 11.99 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.043 LMVP Shares
72. Grant Hill
Years Played: 1994-2013
Teams: Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers
Positional Rank: No. 17 SF
Through the first six seasons of his career, all of which came with the Detroit Pistons, Grant Hill averaged a sensational 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game while playing top-notch defense and shooting 47.6 percent from the field. His PER during that time was 22.4, and he was earning 0.169 win shares per 48 minutes en route to posting numbers that had only been matched by Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird—though LeBron James would later gain entry to that exclusive club.
But then ankle injuries messed up everything. The small forward played just 47 games during the next four years, all of which were spent with the Orlando Magic, and his career never reached the level it began at. Instead, he played out his days as a limited contributor and rarely showed off the Hall of Fame game displayed so prominently during his first seasons.
In terms of peak performance, Hill belongs among the elites. But unfortunately, the majority of his career wasn't spent at anything even resembling his early playing days, and that depresses his overall ranking.
Of course, it also depresses the myriad fans who had grown to love his athletic exploits in the 1990s.
Hill's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.0 PER, .551 TS%, 110 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 99.9 WS, 0.138 WS/48
Performance Metrics: 434.85 PP, 29.48 AS, 250.88 CC, 13.94 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.81 LMVP Shares
71. Shawn Marion
Years Played: 1999-Current
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers
Positional Rank: No. 16 SF
If you're looking for one season's worth of production, Grant Hill is your man, and it's not even close. But if you're trying to find the best career, which is the ultimate goal here, then Shawn Marion edges him out by the smallest of margins. First, let's just look at the performance metrics for the two small forwards:
Well that's just not even close, especially since Marion is still earning more Career Contributions during this 2014-15 season and might have a few years left in the tank if he unexpectedly chooses not to retire. The versatile small forward does lose in LMVP Shares entirely because of Hill's astounding six-year run to kick off his post-Duke career.
Marion has become one of the NBA's most underrated historical contributors, and he doesn't really deserve to be an afterthought on those Phoenix Suns teams that ran at such a high tempo. Steve Nash won multiple MVPs there, and Amar'e Stoudemire was an All-Star. But Marion was the glue that held everything together and allowed the defense to remain right around the league average.
Sure as his jumper is ugly, the man fondly known as "The Matrix" needs some more credit.
Marion's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.7 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.8 PER, .542 TS%, 109 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 124.8 WS, 0.15 WS/48, 0.002 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1327.67 PP, 252.23 AS, 278.09 CC, 18.54 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.669 LMVP Shares
70. Tiny Archibald
Years Played: 1970-84
Teams: Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City Kings, New York Nets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks
Positional Rank: No. 15 PG
The conversation centering around Nate "Tiny" Archibald simply has to begin with the 1972-73 season, one in which he became the first and only player to lead the league in both scoring and assists. Archibald averaged 34 points and 11.4 dimes per game for the Kansas City Kings that year, earning 14.2 win shares in the process.
It was a mark that he wouldn't top ever again, and he even managed to rack up a mind-numbing 37.53 Career Contributions during that season alone.
Unfortunately, the greatness at the beginning of this point guard's career was tempered by an early decline. While he played 876 regular-season games during his NBA life, many of those came after the fateful Achilles tear that he suffered during the 1976-77 go-round with the New York Knicks.
After missing an entire season, he joined the Boston Celtics and was just never the same. During the final six years of his NBA tenure—five spent with the C's and one with the Milwaukee Bucks—Archibald averaged only 12 points and 6.7 assists per game. His PER never rose above 15.3, a far cry from the 20-plus marks he produced four times during the pre-injury portion of his career.
Archibald's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 34.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.0 PER, .543 TS%, 109 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 83.4 WS, 0.128 WS/48, 0.465 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 452.61 PP, 269.07 AS, 211.87 CC, 16.3 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.31 LMVP Shares
69. Alex English
Years Played: 1976-91
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks
Positional Rank: No. 15 SF
With his high-release jumper, Alex English scored 21,018 of his 25,613 career points during the 1980s, and no other player came close to that mark. Moses Malone was the No. 2 scorer of the decade (19,082), while Adrian Dantley, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the only other players to top 15,000.
However, English's value didn't spill over beyond the scoring column for the Denver Nuggets. He was a limited player in many facets of the game—especially defense—and none of his performance metrics resonate all that strongly. His Career Contributions per season, for example, are by no means unimpressive, but the fact they leave him No. 71 among ranked players doesn't exactly help him stand out when compared to the other legends on this ladder.
The biggest knock against him, though, comes in the playoffs. English advanced to the Western Conference Finals only once, when he led the 1985 Nuggets into that deep stage of the postseason. The Los Angeles Lakers knocked Denver off in five games, and that ended his best shot at even making it to the NBA Finals.
English's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks
Ultimate Season: 29.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.9 PER, .550 TS%, 111 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 100.7 WS, 0.127 WS/48, 0.167 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1222.64 PP, 39.9 AS, 238.82 CC, 15.92 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.071 LMVP Shares
68. Carmelo Anthony
Years Played: 2003-Current
Teams: Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks
Positional Rank: No. 14 SF
Carmelo Anthony's career has already been a strange one. Even though he's functioned as a dominant individual and also played on a couple of teams with significant amounts of talent, he's had limited playoff success, advancing to the Western Conference Finals with the Denver Nuggets in 2009 and doing little else after the regular season.
But prior to 2014, he'd also made it to the postseason during every season of his career. Interestingly enough, that 2013-14 go-round was quite possibly the best Anthony has ever played as an individual, even if his team wasn't all that successful and spent the year embroiled in turmoil.
Though he's always been known as a scorer first and foremost, it's actually Anthony's rebounding that pushes him ahead of Alex English. They're comparable small forwards in the points column, even if English has a deeper resume due to longevity. But the more modern 3 has a total rebounding percentage that's 1.3 percent higher than his older counterpart, and that's just enough to push Anthony over the top.
Anthony's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 25.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 28.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.2 PER, .546 TS%, 108 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 86.1 WS, 0.137 WS/48, 0.453 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1083.72 PP, 39.9 AS, 190.98 CC, 17.36 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.24 LMVP Shares
67. Vince Carter
Years Played: 1998-Current
Teams: Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies
Positional Rank: No. 12 SG
Oh, what could have been.
Vince Carter appeared to be tracking toward legendary status during his early days, posterizing plenty of helpless defenders, attacking rims with ferocity and becoming one of the league's brightest young stars while he was with the Toronto Raptors.
However, he never fully accepted the burden of stardom and would let his effort levels slip on some occasions. Though he was by no means anything less than great, he still wasn't as effective as he could have been. And that didn't change until he became a role player with the Dallas Mavericks late in his career.
To his credit, he thrived in that position with the Mavs and helped redeem some of what was lost, but as a whole, his time in the NBA has to be considered a little disappointing.
That's only given the expectations he burdened himself with, of course. It's not particularly difficult to see Carter was a great player, especially after he entered the 2014-15 campaign with more Career Contributions to his credit than all but 34 players in NBA history.
Nonetheless, it will always be somewhat surprising that a player this talented and who stayed quite healthy throughout his career isn't ranked in the top 30.
Carter's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 27.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.8 PER, .537 TS%, 109 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 116.5 WS, 0.140 WS/48, 0.051 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1013.73 PP, 35.73 AS, 288.35 CC, 18.02 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.615 LMVP Shares
66. Chauncey Billups
Years Played: 1997-2014
Teams: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers
Positional Rank: No. 14 PG
Chauncey Billups was never a top-of-the-class point guard, but he was a pretty darn good one for a long time. One of the more intelligent floor generals the sport has seen—it will be a travesty if Billups doesn't eventually end up in the coaching ranks—he managed to maximize his talents and compete on both ends of the floor for nearly two decades.
The 1-guard's finest season came in 2003-04, when he averaged 16.9 points and 5.7 assists during the regular season but guided his Detroit Pistons to a world championship. He had better years as an individual, especially during the next few campaigns, but the combination of regular-season and playoff excellence was unsurpassed throughout his NBA life.
But what was Billups' worst season? Outside of the early years, when he was making the Colorado-to-NBA transition, and the injury-plagued campaigns at the end of his career, he was a fantastic contributor for quite a long time. In particular, his days with the Pistons and Denver Nuggets consistently saw him near the top of the positional totem pole.
Billups' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.8 PER, .580 TS%, 118 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 120.8 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.375 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2044 PP, 477.4 AS, 259.15 CC, 15.24 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.461 LMVP Shares
65. Kevin Johnson
Years Played: 1987-2000
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns
Positional Rank: No. 13 PG
Though undiscovered hernias forced Kevin Johnson into an early decline and subsequent retirement, limiting him to just 735 games throughout his career, he was one hell of an offensive player when at his best. Only nine different men in NBA history have averaged 20 points and 10 assists during a qualified season. Johnson actually gained entry in three consecutive years (1988-1991).
He, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas are the only players who can claim that feat.
Johnson also has an impressive playoff resume, even if his teams experienced limited success. Not only did Johnson advance to the postseason in 11 of his 13 seasons, but he averaged 19.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists once he was there, compiling a playoff PER of 19.1.
Really, the only major flaws in Johnson's resume come on the defensive end of the court, in the categories that revolve around team success and when discussing the length of his career. Had he been able to enjoy a typical twilight, he likely would've been perceived with much more favor.
Johnson's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.7 PER, .585 TS%, 118 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 92.8 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 0.063 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1747.2 PP, 164 AS, 201.3 CC, 16.77 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.425 LMVP Shares
64. Dikembe Mutombo
Years Played: 1991-2009
Teams: Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets
Positional Rank: No. 16 C
Only three players who averaged single-digit points per game throughout their entire careers are ranked in the top 100: Dikembe Mutombo (9.8 points per game and No. 64), Ben Wallace (5.7 and No. 81) and Dennis Rodman, who averaged 7.3 points per game but has yet to appear.
Notice anything they might have in common?
All three were legendary defensive players. Mutombo thrived when he was protecting the rim and unleashing his patented finger wag after ferociously rejecting some mere mortal's shot attempt. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game throughout his remarkably lengthy career, but even when he didn't get a fingertip on the ball, he still altered countless others.
However, the reason Mutombo ranks so much higher than Wallace is the more rounded nature of his play. He was actually capable of contributing on the offensive end, even averaging 16.6 points per game in his rookie season. His speciality may still have been preventing points, but he could help his various teams produce them as well.
Mutombo's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 2.8 blocks
Ultimate Season: 16.6 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 4.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.2 PER, .573 TS%, 111 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 117.0 WS, 0.153 WS/48, 0.003 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1074.64 PP, 88.96 AS, 320.29 CC, 17.79 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.78 LMVP Shares
63. Pau Gasol
Years Played: 2001-Current
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls
Positional Rank: No. 15 C
How valuable was Pau Gasol while he was winning championships with Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers? Well, he earned 13.9 win shares during the 2009 season and another 11 while he was defending the first title of his career. For perspective, Bryant earned 12.7 and 9.4, respectively.
That's not to suggest Gasol is better than Bryant—you haven't seen the shooting guard pop up yet, have you?—just to say that the Spaniard deserves more credit than he typically gets.
Frankly, that's been the case throughout his career, whether we're talking about the work he did as a lead player with the Memphis Grizzlies, as a co-star on the Lakers or now in a new role with the Chicago Bulls, one in which he's been absolutely fantastic. Even these last few years, the reports that Gasol has declined dramatically have been both premature and nonsensical.
Speaking of being underrated, Gasol has earned more LMVP Shares (0.93) than all but 60 players throughout NBA history. But he's never earned even a single MVP vote, and I'm not just talking about first-place nods. That doesn't even make sense, given how good he's been throughout his career. And interestingly enough, it may be with the Bulls that it finally changes.
Gasol's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.7 blocks
Ultimate Season: 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.1 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.6 PER, .568 TS%, 113 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 121.7 WS, 0.169 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1714.65 PP, 501.04 AS, 283.81 CC, 21.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.93 LMVP Shares
62. Tracy McGrady
Years Played: 1997-2012
Teams: Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs
Positional Rank: No. 11 SG
It's a shame that injuries and misfortune in the playoffs prevented Tracy McGrady from living up to his full potential. After all, he was transcendentally good during his peak years—especially in 2002-03, when he put together one of the greatest individual seasons recorded by any player in NBA history.
During that year, he was Kobe Bryant's biggest rival and the player most likely to take over as the NBA's top dog down the road. He averaged 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, and his 30.3 PER was the best mark in the league.
Plus, he had 16.1 win shares and a league-high 0.262 win shares per 48 minutes, which remain some of the best single-season numbers ever produced. Players like Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird have put together comparable campaigns—and better careers—but the '02-03 run from McGrady may still take the cake among those standouts.
Still, we can't look past the lost seasons and the strange dearth of playoff success. It wasn't until his final year that he advanced past the first round of the postseason, and that only came when he joined the San Antonio Spurs near the end of the season and played just 31 minutes over the course of six playoff appearances. Not per game, but total.
McGrady's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks
Ultimate Season: 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 22.1 PER, .519 TS%, 108 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 97.3 WS, 0.152 WS/48, 0.855 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 812.5 PP, 10.83 AS, 252.42 CC, 16.83 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 1.911 LMVP Shares
61. Tom Heinsohn
Years Played: 1956-65
Teams: Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 12 PF
On the flip side, here's a player whose playoff success is misleading, but only because he earned more of it than he can truly justify. With eight rings to his credit, his legacy revolves around the work he did after the regular season had drawn to a close, and that's entirely understandable. But let's not overlook all the facts, as they prevent him from moving too much higher up in the rankings.
Tom Heinsohn's value to his team wasn't always immense, and he never led the Boston Celtics in win shares. That's partially due to being surrounded by superior legends, of course.
But here's another interesting disparity: Heinsohn's Advancement Shares put him as the No. 8 player among the top 100. Meanwhile, his Playoff Performance score leaves him trailing 56 members of the same group. That difference indicates that he wasn't exactly carrying his team to success year in and year out but rather receiving significant aid from those around him.
That's not to say Heinsohn wasn't a great player; he obviously is, or else he wouldn't be on the verge of the top 60. You just can't base analyses solely on rings, or else you'd get a rather strange order in your countdown.
Heinsohn's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Ultimate Season: 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 17.8 PER, .460 TS%, 60.0 WS, 0.15 WS/48, 0.053 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1367.6 PP, 1352.22 AS, 124.29 CC, 13.81 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares
60. Tony Parker
Years Played: 2001-Current
Teams: San Antonio Spurs
Positional Rank: No. 12 PG
Let's play the playoff performance game with Tony Parker and Tom Heinsohn:
|AS||AS Top 100 Rank||AS All-Time Rank||PP||PP Top 100 Rank||PP All-Time Rank|
|Heinsohn||1352.2||No. 8||No. 8||1367.6||No. 57||No. 73|
|Parker||837.4||No. 20||No. 30||2481.4||No. 23||No. 23|
The same disparity doesn't exist, as Parker has been one of the leaders of the San Antonio Spurs ever since he left ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne and joined Gregg Popovich's system. He's developed a mastery over that offense and defense, and it's allowed him to maximize his skills on both ends, even if it may also have held him back as an individual performer.
While Parker has never been the most glamorous player, rarely posting big statistical performances, he's won games by playing unselfish basketball and always promoting the success of his teammates.
Tim Duncan may have been the clear-cut leader of the Spurs throughout his illustrious career, but the work of this floor general cannot be discredited. Though Parker may only have led the team in win shares twice, that's context- and system-driven, not a reflection on his level of talent, ability and performance.
Parker's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .550 TS%, 109 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 99.2 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 0.379 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2481.36 PP, 837.42 AS, 191.15 CC, 14.7 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.079 LMVP Shares
59. Dave Cowens
Years Played: 1970-83
Teams: Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks
Positional Rank: No. 14 C
Few players have been as passionate about everything as Dave Cowens, whose red hair flopped around while he tried to insert himself in each and every play for the Boston Celtics throughout his 13-year career. Diving on the floor for loose balls, taking charges, protesting every foul call and refusing to give less than 100 percent—cliche as that may be—Cowens' career was defined by sheer desire.
And quality basketball, of course.
A well-rounded center who didn't have to score in order to dominate a box score, Cowens is one of 34 players in NBA history who has won LMVP. He did so during the 1977-78 season, five years after he won the real MVP. That season, the big man averaged 18.6 points, 14.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, earning 10.8 win shares for the 32-win C's.
But what truly made Cowens' career was the passion he showed for defense. The two-time champion asserted himself as one of the most versatile big-man defenders of his era, making three All-Defensive teams and frustrating countless opponents. That may not always show up in a box score, but it matters nonetheless.
Cowens' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.9 blocks
Ultimate Season: 20.5 points, 16.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.0 PER, .496 TS%, 106 ORtg, 96 DRtg, 86.3 WS, 0.140 WS/48, 1.338 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1595.77 PP, 630.79 AS, 185.11 CC, 16.83 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 1.08 LMVP Shares
58. Robert Parish
Years Played: 1976-97
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls
Positional Rank: No. 13 C
During the 1975-76 season, Robert Parish joined the NBA as a fresh-faced rookie from Centenary College of Louisiana, and he proceeded to average 9.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Golden State Warriors. Two decades later, he was with the Chicago Bulls and put up just 3.7 points and 2.1 boards during the average game.
But in between, he was absolutely fantastic. Parish certainly earns brownie points for the length of his career and the simple fact that he suited up in a record 1,611 regular-season games (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in second with 1,560). On top of that, he was quite good throughout a remarkably long prime. From 1978 through 1993, he even averaged 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.
Parish was never a transcendent player, and he was usually the third wheel on a Boston Celtics team that also featured Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. All the same, he was quite valuable on both ends of the court and was content to do those little things that contribute to winning.
And he won a lot—his four rings prove that.
Parish's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 19.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.2 PER, .571 TS%, 111 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 147.0 WS, 0.154 WS/48, 0.286 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2392 PP, 899.79 AS, 309.61 CC, 14.74 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.19 LMVP Shares
57. Bob Lanier
Years Played: 1970-84
Teams: Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks
Positional Rank: No. 12 C
Bob Lanier didn't win LMVP at any point in his career, but he did finish in the top four three times during his tenure with the Detroit Pistons and actually led his squad in win shares during eight separate seasons. The best of the bunch came in 1974-75, when he averaged 24.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, earning 12.4 win shares on a 40-win Detroit team. His value to his team that year trailed only that of Bob McAdoo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Throughout his entire time in the Association, the 6'11" center was a dominant scoring threat. In fact, during his sophomore season, two years removed from playing for St. Bonaventure, Lanier averaged 25.7 points per game. And it wasn't until the 1980s that he would fail to break past the 20-point barrier. That's quite a long run of sustained excellence.
Working against Lanier is the whole postseason. He was great throughout his many first-round appearances, but it was never enough to get his team over the top and deep into the more important part of the year.
Lanier's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 25.7 points, 14.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.7 PER, .559 TS%, 111 ORtg, 98 DRtg, 117.1 WS, 0.175 WS/48, 0.504 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1120.91 PP, 62.5 AS, 317.74 CC, 22.7 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.43 LMVP Shares
56. Sidney Moncrief
Years Played: 1979-91
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks
Positional Rank: No. 10 SG
Was Sidney Moncrief a fantastic defender, one who deserves that enduring reputation? Absolutely, as he's the proud owner of five All-Defensive nods and two Defensive Player of the Year trophies. However, there was more to his game than locking down, as a 1985 Sports Illustrated article by Jaime Diaz makes quite clear:
At 28 Moncrief is the best pentathlete of the NBA—no one does so many things so well. Moncrief is a relentless rebounder and inside scorer, a reliable outside shooter, a creative passer and a master of the man-to-man, switching and rotation defenses in coach Don Nelson's hefty defensive playbook. This has made him a member of four NBA All-Star teams and three All-Defensive teams, and Defensive Player of the Year twice. Remarkably, however, he has never been in the top 10 in any category. In a sport where coaches strive to find the best blend of specialists, Moncrief has become its most accomplished generalist.
Just look at Moncrief's ultimate season if you need evidence that he was more than a defensive stalwart: 22.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks. He actually averaged at least 20 points per game during four consecutive seasons.
Had knee injuries not prevented his prime from continuing into his 30s, ushering him into two early retirements and a failed comeback attempt, he'd likely be viewed in even more favorable light.
Moncrief's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.7 PER, .591 TS%, 119 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 90.3 WS, 0.187 WS/48, 0.695 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1157.85 PP, 121.51 AS, 188.38 CC, 17.13 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.063 LMVP Shares
55. Jerry Lucas
Years Played: 1963-74
Teams: Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks
Positional Rank: No. 11 PF
Jerry Lucas is an interesting player to rank simply because so much of his legacy centers around his incredible work on the boards. Averaging 21.1 rebounds per game at his peak and 15.6 over the course of his career is absolutely amazing, but it's also a bit misleading. Due to pace and rebounding chances that stem from shooting percentages, there were more opportunities for him to clean the glass throughout his playing days, and that makes his numbers artificially high.
Sadly, total rebounding percentage is only available for the last four years of Lucas' career. We still can't get a more accurate picture, even if we can learn that the veteran version of himself—one who averaged only 10.5 rebounds per game—had a total rebounding percentage of 15.3, which puts him in the same range as someone like Elton Brand (15.1).
There were plenty more rebounding chances available just prior, though we don't have exact possession data. It's not as though his total rebounding percentage would skyrocket, even given his elevated per-game numbers. And without a remarkably high rebounding percentage, his resume loses some of its luster.
Lucas' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 15.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 21.5 points, 21.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .544 TS%, 98.4 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0.027 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 935.28 PP, 243.6 AS, 229.05 CC, 20.82 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares
54. Dennis Rodman
Years Played: 1986-2000
Teams: Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks
Positional Rank: No. 10 PF
As strange a character as Dennis Rodman was (and is), he was equally effective on the boards. And as good as he was at hauling in rebounds—arguably better than anyone else in NBA history, given a total rebounding percentage that's the top mark with room to spare—he was equally dominant on the defensive end.
Rodman's scoring is almost irrelevant here. Of course, it's what ultimately holds him back from making the top 50, but he contributed plenty from the 4 even without doing anything too positive in the points column. He could impact a game almost solely by inhaling rebounds and shutting down anything that moved.
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rodman was named to the All-Defensive squad eight times throughout his career. And the crazy part is that he was never a superior thief or shot-blocker. If you need any proof that those two stats aren't necessarily good reflections of point-preventing impact, look no further than the fact that one of the greatest, most suffocating defenders in NBA history never averaged even a single block or steal at any point in his 14-year career.
Rodman's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 7.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 11.6 points, 18.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 14.6 PER, .546 TS%, 114 ORtg, 100 DRtg, 89.8 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.040 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1210.04 PP, 935.28 AS, 180.27 CC, 12.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.143 LMVP Shares
53. Artis Gilmore
Years Played: 1971-88
Teams: Kentucky Colonels (ABA), Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 11 C
Artis Gilmore was absolutely huge, and he didn't hesitate to use that size to his advantage. A hulking 7'2" center with 240 pounds of meat on his bones, he would shoot over defenders and get close enough to the basket that he could just drop the ball through the net for an easy two points.
However, Gilmore, who was quite valuable to his teams, never truly dominated. He's hurt here by the ABA days not counting on his resume, as he averaged 22.3 points and 17.1 rebounds per game during that portion of his professional career.
He was still a fantastic player in the NBA, but those ultimate-season numbers aren't as impressive as they could have been. Instead, he was a consistent standout who never emerged as a true all-time great during any one season. From a five-year period that spanned 1980 through 1985, he averaged between 10.1 and 12 rebounds every season along with between 15.3 and 19.1 points.
Gilmore's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.9 blocks
Ultimate Season: 23.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 2.7 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.2 PER, .643 TS%, 117 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 107.4 WS, 0.174 WS/48, 0.066 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 459.9 PP, 40.58 AS, 276.96 CC, 23.08 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.78 LMVP Shares
52. James Worthy
Years Played: 1982-94
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Positional Rank: No. 13 SF
James Worthy was never truly "the man" on any of his Los Angeles Lakers teams. That status was reserved for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. And as a result, he's one of the few players ranked in the top 100—one of just five, in fact—who never led his team in win shares during any season of his career.
But Worthy didn't have to be the No. 1 option in order to make a positive impact. He played on some remarkably successful Lakers squads, and he tended perform at his best in the biggest moments, hence the "Big Game James" moniker he earned after Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals. It was that outing in which he put together his infamous triple-double to clinch a title, but it's not as though it was the only stellar performance of his career.
For evidence that Worthy did thrive when the going got tough, you need look no further than his postseason resume. He averaged 21.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks during his playoff career, and across the board, those numbers are superior to the ones he posted in the regular seasons. So too is an 18.3 PER that overshadows the 17.7 PER in the earlier part of the campaign.
Worthy's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks
Ultimate Season: 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.7 PER, .559 TS%, 112 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 81.2 PER, 0.13 WS/48, 0.009 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2310.88 PP, 833.57 AS, 156 CC, 13 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares
51. Rick Barry
Years Played: 1965-80
Teams: San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, Oakland Oaks (ABA), Washington Capitols (ABA), New York Nets (ABA), Houston Rockets
Positional Rank: No. 12 SF
It doesn't matter how much fun he was to play with; Rick Barry was still a huge asset to every team he was on, even if his tenure with some ABA squads doesn't count for our purposes. A terrific scorer throughout his NBA career, Barry was famous for far more than his competitive, abrasive nature and underhanded free-throw form.
For context, it's not particularly easy to earn over 20 Career Contributions per season while playing on competitive teams, but that's a feat accomplished by this particular small forward. His 21.67 leave him as the No. 30 player among the top 100.
His teams consistently advanced to the playoffs, and while he only won a ring in 1975, he tended to lead them deep into the festivities. It was only with the Houston Rockets at the tail end of his career that he failed to get out of the first round.
And much as is the case with so many of basketball's best, Barry was at his best during the postseason. His PER rose to 20.3, and he averaged 24.8 points per game throughout the playoff portion while continuing to make his typical well-rounded contributions.
Barry's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 23.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 35.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.9 steals, 0.7 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.2 PER, .510 TS%, 105 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 93.4 WS, 0.156 WS/48, 0.592 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1364.56 PP, 390.14 AS, 216.65 CC, 21.67 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.222 LMVP Shares
50. Dwight Howard
Years Played: 2004-Current
Teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets
Positional Rank: No. 10 C
Dwight Howard has plenty of strong years in front of him, including the remainder of the 2014-15 season that has seen him—when healthy—help push the Houston Rockets into the realm of contenders with his solid offensive play and fantastic work as a defensive anchor. But the 29-year-old big man has already submitted enough high-quality seasons to move into the top 50.
This particular center may still be quite young, at least compared to most of the players who populate these rankings, but he was a prep-to-pro phenom who entered the league at 19. He's still built quite the resume, winning Defensive Player of the Year three times, earning plenty of impressive accolades and even carrying the Orlando Magic into the NBA Finals.
Howard is not without his flaws, of course. He's seen his popularity decline precipitously after an ill-fated venture to the Los Angeles Lakers and another free-agency saga that led him to Houston. He's a horrific free-throw shooter, and he's never become as dominant in the post as he should have been. But while the negatives matter, they shouldn't overshadow the many positive parts to his game.
Howard's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.9 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.9 PER, .598 TS%, 109 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 105.9 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 1.249 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1243.53 PP, 121.25 AS, 233.55 CC, 23.35 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.88 LMVP Shares
49. Paul Arizin
Years Played: 1950-62
Teams: Philadelphia Warriors
Positional Rank: No. 11 SF
Even with a flat jumper and spending two years out of the league with the Marines during the middle of his NBA career, Paul Arizin was still a remarkably valuable player throughout his time with the Philadelphia Warriors. He won LMVP twice—once in 1951-52 when he earned 16 win shares for a 33-win Warriors team, and once in 1958-59 when he racked up 13 more win shares on a 32-win outfit. Only 11 players have earned LMVP twice, so that's no small feat.
Arizin also led Philadelphia to a title in 1958, and he was really quite good throughout his decade of postseason efforts. His playoff metrics won't blow you away, given what you've seen from other players already, but they're strong numbers for someone whose career wasn't all that long.
And that's the biggest knock against this small forward. He played in just 713 games—already over 50 fewer than Dwight Howard, for example. His career was cut short by that two-year stint with the U.S. Marine Corps right after his sophomore season, as well as by his choice to retire at 33 once the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco.
Arizin's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 22.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Ultimate Season: 26.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 19.7 PER, .506 TS%, 108.8 WS, 0.183 WS/48, 0.495 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 838.88 PP, 337.06 AS, 288.6 CC, 28.86 CC/Season, 2 LMVPs, 2.25 LMVP Shares
48. Adrian Dantley
Years Played: 1976-91
Teams: Buffalo Braves, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks
Positional Rank: No. 10 SF
Adrian Dantley may have been a ball-stopper who bounced between teams and never played much defense, but he's also one of history's best examples of a one-man show. Few players have been able to score this well in the face of constant defensive pressure, and two types of numbers show that above all else.
First, Dantley shot 54 percent from the field and 81.8 percent at the line throughout his career. His three-point percentage was just 17.1 percent, but he also took only 41 attempts during his 15 professional seasons.
The combination—one boosted by a ridiculous knack for luring in defenders to draw contact on jumpers—is strong enough for him to boast a lifetime true shooting percentage of 61.7 percent, which remains the No. 5 all-time mark, behind only Artis Gilmore, Cedric Maxwell, James Donaldson and Tyson Chandler. Do note that he and Maxwell are the only non-big men on that list, but Dantley's 24.3 points per game trump Maxwell's 12.5 by a rather large margin.
And how about value? Dantley is a five-time LMVP, which not only makes him one of 11 players to earn multiple such awards, but also leaves him trailing only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, who won't be showing up in this countdown for quite some time. His 5.605 LMVP Shares drop him down to No. 4, allowing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to break a tie in the previous category, but there's nothing particularly embarrassing about that.
Dantley's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 30.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.5 PER, .617 TS%, 119 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 134.2 WS, 0.189 WS/48, 0.151 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1135.15 PP, 108.65 AS, 552.95 CC, 36.86 CC/Season, 5 LMVPs, 5.605 LMVP Shares
47. Wes Unseld
Years Played: 1968-81
Teams: Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets
Positional Rank: No. 9 C
It's not easy for a 6'7" center to thrive in the NBA, and it's not as though Wes Unseld came around so early on in NBA history that he was playing against amazingly small competition. He was still an undersized big man as soon as he entered the league, and it just didn't matter.
Unseld was a tenacious rebounder, a wall of muscle who couldn't be moved when he got his feet set. And while he was tough, he was also uniquely skilled. When you watch Kevin Love throw outlet passes in games this season, you'll inevitably hear throwback comparisons to Unseld, the original master of hitting teammates on breaks with ridiculous long-distance assists.
Whether the Bullets were the Washington, Capital or Baltimore versions, Unseld was the foundation. He didn't put up big glamour statistics, instead thriving on all the little things while allowing his toughness to set the tone. Though he rarely led his team in win shares, it would be hard for anyone to claim he was anything but a leader all the same.
Unseld's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 16.2 points, 18.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 16.0 PER, .537 TS%, 113 ORtg, 96 DRtg, 110.1 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0.639 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1679.09 PP, 448.09 AS, 241.01 CC, 18.54 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.39 LMVP Shares
46. Chris Paul
Years Played: 2005-Current
Teams: New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers
Positional Rank: No. 11 PG
Paul has generally done well in big moments. He has outshot almost every superstar in crunch time, and he's a tidy 18-of-36 in the last five minutes of playoff games in which the score has been within five points. He's missed some big shots, and he's suffered his fair share of boners; his turnover rate has spiked badly in several playoff seasons.
Guess what. This is exactly what you'd expect from a little guy who has supervised just about every important offensive possession for his team since the day he walked into the league. Paul has more hits than misses, and that's rare for crunch time, when shooting percentages drop and even stars wilt under increased defensive attention.
An inability to advance deep into the postseason is really the only flaw on this point guard's resume, save the fact that he's still in the prime of his career and hasn't yet played enough games to keep moving up in the rankings. After all, everything else looks ridiculously good, including that 25.6 career PER that's higher than the number produced by any other point guard in NBA history.
"Paul is objectively one of the 10 greatest point guards ever, a rare combination of historic passing, very good shooting, slicing attacks toward the rim, and elite defense at his position," Lowe wrote. "He has no weaknesses, save perhaps his height, which can make it hard for him at times to see over the defenses and throw the cross-court passes that LeBron tosses with such ease."
From a per-season standpoint, Paul already looks like a top-five floor general. And he'll get there in these rankings eventually, so long as his trajectory is normal and not truncated by a freak injury.
Paul's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.9 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 11.6 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 25.5 PER, .576 TS%, 123 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 127.8 WS, 0.246 WS/48, 1.459 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1047.81 PP, 0 AS, 257.46 CC, 28.61 CC/Season, 2 LMVPs, 3.05 LMVP Shares
45. Reggie Miller
Years Played: 1987-2005
Teams: Indiana Pacers
Positional Rank: No. 9 SG
Reggie Miller managed to play at an extraordinarily high level for a long, long time. Even with 18 years in the NBA and 1,389 regular-season games played, this shooting guard managed to average 22.85 Career Contributions per season—the No. 26 mark among the top 100.
Only eight players—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Adrian Dantley, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Kevin Garnett and Oscar Robertson—have more than Miller's total number.
While he's been dethroned as the all-time three-point champion, Miller remains one of the top shooters in NBA history. During his time with the Indiana Pacers, he took 4.7 triples per game and still knocked them down at a 39.5 percent clip. His best season came in 1996-97, when he took 6.6 per game and hit 42.7 percent of them—both those numbers are career highs.
Miller didn't know it at the time, but his time in the NBA leads to one undeniable truth. A decade after his retirement, it's abundantly clear that his career with the Pacers is always going to be inextricably tied to the work of Ray Allen.
Miller's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 24.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.4 PER, .614 TS%, 121 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 174.4 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.003 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2095.2 PP, 275.68 AS, 411.22 CC, 22.85 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.736 LMVP Shares
44. Ray Allen
Years Played: 1996-2014
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Positional Rank: No. 8 SG
Ray Allen might have broken Reggie Miller's three-point record, but that's not the reason he ranks ever so slightly ahead of his fellow legendary shooter. Frankly, his regular-season numbers aren't superior, and he was less valuable to his teams over the course of his career, though he was a more well-rounded contributor during his athletic prime.
It's the postseason that pushes Allen over the top, if only by a hair's breadth.
I'm hesitant to use rings as a large portion of the criteria, but Allen needs some credit for the two he won. One came with the Boston Celtics right after he and Kevin Garnett joined the squad and worked perfectly together under the Ubuntu teachings of Doc Rivers. The other came with the Miami Heat, sparked by the unbelievable back-pedaling three-pointer he knocked down against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 to keep the Heat alive.
While Miller's Playoff Performance score is marginally higher, Allen's Advancement Share blows Miller's out of the water. That's the biggest difference between these two, though it's also worth noting how much better Allen's ultimate season was. He averaged 26.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while his older counterpart put up 24.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Allen's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .580 TS%, 114 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 145.1 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.038 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2016.09 PP, 537.25 AS, 338.92 CC, 18.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.567 LMVP Shares
43. Dominique Wilkins
Years Played: 1982-99
Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic
Positional Rank: No. 9 SF
It's the playoffs that hold Dominique Wilkins back here.
Though Wilkins advanced to the postseason 10 times during his NBA career—including once each with the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic—he never went to the conference finals. Not even once, though his Atlanta Hawks took the C's to seven games in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Still, it's hard to say Wilkins wasn't up for big moments. He came through in plenty of them for the Hawks, and his unforgettable 1988 duel with Larry Bird will live on in the memories of basketball fans for quite some time. Wilkins was undoubtedly a scoring legend during all portions of games, and it's not as though he was just a one-dimensional player either.
Though he didn't dominate on defense and was a limited distributor, the dunking machine was an asset on the boards, which made him quite valuable to his teams. And if you remove the three full seasons he played outside of Atlanta, his average value only elevates further.
Now, if only his recent and unmatched dominance in the All-Star Weekend's Shooting Stars Challenge mattered.
Wilkins' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 24.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 30.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.1 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.6 PER, .536 TS%, 112 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 117.5 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 0.849 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 943.6 PP, 0 AS, 279.79 CC, 18.65 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.593 LMVP Shares
42. Kevin Durant
Years Played: 2007-Current
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Oklahoma City Thunder
Positional Rank: No. 8 SF
Of the 100 players ranked in this article, only three gained entry despite having less than 600 games under their belt: George Mikan, Neil Johnston (who flat-out dominated the league when it was in its infancy) and Kevin Durant. The league's reigning MVP has already been that good.
If Durant retired right now, he'd do so with that MVP award, 3.005 MVP shares (which put him at No. 13 all time), five All-NBA selections and four scoring championships. That's already an incredible resume, and this 26-year-old standout is only going to keep getting better and better. Based on what we've seen from him thus far, it would be shocking if he didn't make a push to the top 10 by the time he eventually retires.
The biggest knock on Durant is his lack of playoff success, as he's been to the NBA Finals once but failed to get past LeBron James and the Miami Heat. But already, he's been more impressive than all but 51 ranked players as an individual in the postseason. It's the result of him dominating for the Oklahoma City Thunder each and every year, even if his team has suffered some unfortunately timed injuries.
Durant's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 27.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks
Ultimate Season: 32.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 24.7 PER, .601 TS%, 115 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 93.4 WS, 0.207 WS/48, 3.005 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1604.54 PP, 175.61 AS, 202.16 CC, 28.88 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.367 LMVP Shares
41. Elvin Hayes
Years Played: 1968-84
Teams: San Diego/Houston Rockets, Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets
Positional Rank: No. 9 PF
Elvin Hayes' enduring legacy may well be his tenacious work on the boards, as he managed to record double-doubles in 55 consecutive games during the early 1970s. Since Wilt Chamberlain and his glass-eating ways took a step back, only Kevin Love has come close to matching that streak, as the Cleveland Cavaliers big man recorded 53 straight double-doubles in 2010-11 with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But while Hayes was a monster on the glass and a stellar defender who earned two All-Defensive selections, his rebounding numbers might boost him up ever so slightly more than they should.
Take his one and only season with the Capital Bullets as an example, since he averaged 18.1 rebounds per game during that 1973-74 go-round. If you make an era translation to account for the extra opportunities that were driven by efficiency and pace, he'd have "only" averaged the equivalent of 15.6 boards per game in 2014-15.
So basically, instead of being unbelievably good, he was only really, really, really strong on the boards. And even though he was tough to get along with in the locker room and wasn't a transcendent offensive player, that still makes him rather impressive.
Hayes' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 blocks
Ultimate Season: 28.7 points, 18.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 3.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.7 PER, .491 TS%, 101 ORtg, 97 DRtg, 120.8 WS, 0.116 WS/48, 0.571 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1746.24 PP, 390.91 AS, 268.5 CC, 16.78 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.86 LMVP Shares
40. Sam Jones
Years Played: 1957-69
Teams: Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 7 SG
The unrelenting master of the bank shot, Sam Jones was a clutch-shooting spark plug for the Boston Celtics, winning championship after championship alongside the great Bill Russell. Though his legend certainly doesn't resonate to the same degree that Russell's does, he was by no means riding on the center's coattails. Solely as an individual, taking team success out of the equation, he has the No. 40 one-man playoff resume of all time.
Is his rank here solely based on that? Of course not.
Jones was a superb offensive contributor for many years, spending his entire NBA life with the Celtics. And don't forget that he played during the early and inefficient seasons of the Association's history, so that 50.3 true shooting percentage should actually be viewed as an impressive mark.
Between 1957 and 1969, only 29 players suited up 300 times and posted a true shooting percentage on the right side of 50. Out of those 29, 11 outscored Jones on a per-game basis, and all 11 of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Jones' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Ultimate Season: 25.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 18.7 PER, .503 TS%, 92.3 WS, 0.182 WS/48, 0.067 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1972.74 PP, 1713.66 AS, 184.61 CC, 15.38 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares
39. George Gervin
Years Played: 1976-86
Teams: Virginia Squires (ABA), San Antonio Spurs (ABA and NBA), Chicago Bulls
Positional Rank: No. 6 SG
George Gervin's playoff resume can't hold even a candle with a dwindling flame to Sam Jones', and he didn't play in quite so many games during the regular season either. Of course, that's partially because Gervin spent a solid portion of his career putting up big numbers in the ABA, and none of those years count for our purposes.
But Gervin's work in the NBA during a highly competitive era leaves no doubt that he was a significantly better individual player in a vacuum, which is obviously quite important.
It's only natural to think about Gervin's scoring first and foremost. Using his finger-roll to great success and swooping past defenders with his gold chain dangling from around his neck, the man fondly known as "Iceman" won four scoring titles during his prime, even averaging 29.8 points per game over a five-year stretch.
But Gervin wasn't just a scorer. He may have been noncommittal on the defensive end of the court, and he was a huge negative on that side of the ball during the tail end of his career. But he was a solid rebounder from the 2 and a decent distributor who could make the necessary passes. Plus, his ability to score constantly spread out the opposition, opening up lanes for his teammates.
Gervin's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 26.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks
Ultimate Season: 33.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.7 PER, .572 TS%, 112 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 88.1 WS, 0.159 WS/48, 0.911 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1085.01 PP, 121.6 AS, 199.49 CC, 19.95 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.703 LMVP Shares
38. Steve Nash
Years Played: 1996-2014
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers
Positional Rank: No. 10 PG
First, let's go over the flaws in Steve Nash's resume, as those are the ones that keep him from elevating to a top-30 spot throughout the entirety of NBA history. Even though he earned a set of MVPs during his time with the Phoenix Suns, he doesn't even rank among the top 15 for point guards in Career Contributions per season. The length of his career did allow his total figure to move up to No. 6 at his position, but he still wasn't quite as valuable to his teams as some might think.
Additionally, Nash only earned 0.117 LMVP Shares and doesn't have a strong playoff resume, though some of that is due to bad luck, ill-timed suspensions and injuries, as well as running into tough matchups year in and year out. But, as is the case throughout these rankings, we're not won over by the allure of rings or turned off by a glaring lack of jewelry. It respectively helps and hurts, sure, but only so much.
Subjectively, Nash was one of the most entertaining players of all time. I can safely say he's one of the biggest reasons why basketball became the sport I loved watching the most, as he won me over with his dazzling passes and fearless style of offensive play. But objectively, his complete lack of defensive ability—a minus-2.5 defensive box plus-minus is no good—and overstated value are a bit too much to look past.
They obviously don't trump the fact that he was the conductor for six of the 12 best offenses in NBA history, including each of the top three. They don't change his status as a legendary scorer and distributor with a flair for the dramatic. They don't even negate that pair of MVPs he won in his desert-dwelling prime.
As it stands, Nash is one of only seven guards with at least 400 games played who has a career true shooting percentage on the right side of 60. He's undeniably a legend, though some elements of his resume have become a bit misleading.
Nash's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ultimate Season: 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 11.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, .605 TS%, 118 ORtg, 111 DRtg, 129.7 WS, 0.164 WS/48, 2.429 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1795.2 PP, 157.04 AS, 275.52 CC, 15.31 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.117 LMVP Shares
37. Kevin McHale
Years Played: 1980-93
Teams: Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 8 PF
The obvious story with Kevin McHale revolves around his mind-boggling arsenal of post moves, ones that would routinely dazzle the opposition and leave him with easy lay-ins around the basket. He was nearly unstoppable when given time to work with his back to the basket, and he wasn't any less tricky in face-up situations.
The other obvious story has to do with his playoff success, as this power forward was an integral part of the Boston Celtics dynasty during the 1980s. He won three championships alongside Larry Bird and Robert Parish, and it would have been rather difficult for the team to get over the hump without his services. But what sometimes gets overlooked with McHale is his insane efficiency and his defensive prowess.
Of course, the big man's defense wasn't overlooked during his playing days, as he was a six-time All-Defensive selection, even if that's an oft-forgotten bit of his resume nowadays. He also remains the proud owner of the No. 13 career true shooting percentage of all time, doing so while scoring 17.9 points per game.
And look at the names ahead of him on that list as well as how few points many scored in comparison: Artis Gilmore (17.1 points per game), Cedric Maxwell (12.5), James Donaldson (8.6), Tyson Chandler (8.8), Adrian Dantley (24.3), Reggie Miller (18.2), Charles Barkley (22.1), Magic Johnson (19.5), John Stockton (13.1), Brent Barry (9.3), James Harden (18.3) and Darryl Dawkins (12.0).
McHale's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.7 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, .605 TS%, 118 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 113 WS, 0.180 WS/48, 0.339 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2514.72 PP, 673.84 AS, 220.9 CC, 16.99 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.06 LMVP Shares
36. Paul Pierce
Years Played: 1998-Current
Teams: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards
Positional Rank: No. 7 SF
Paul Pierce's peak isn't unbelievably impressive, though the longevity of his career allows him to stand out in a big way. That ultimate season of 26.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game is quite good, but those are numbers a few players have actually matched in real campaigns, not fake accumulations of career-best statistics: Larry Bird (three times), Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Drexler, Kevin Durant, John Havlicek (twice), LeBron James (four times), Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson (six times) and Jerry West.
Granted, with the exception of Durant, who will surely close the nine-spot gap between himself and Pierce as he plays out his career, all those players have yet to show up in this countdown. It's not as though those numbers are particularly easy to put up, after all. But again, Pierce's career is defined by his consistent excellence over such a long period of time.
Adrian Dantley, for example, is the only small forward in NBA history with more Career Contributions. Pierce broke into the league rather quickly, earning 4.9 win shares as a rookie out of Kansas and then almost doubling that total during his sophomore go-round. Since then, he hasn't earned fewer than five win shares in a single season, even hitting double digits in eight separate campaigns. And he's on pace to get past that lesser benchmark once more during his first season with the Washington Wizards.
Pierce's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.2 PER, .570 TS%, 109 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 148.9 WS, 0.162 WS/48, 0.04 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2185.96 PP, 360.08 AS, 357.21 CC, 22.33 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.918 LMVP Shares
35. Jason Kidd
Years Played: 1994-2013
Teams: Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks
Positional Rank: No. 9 PG
Not only did Jason Kidd experience more playoff success throughout his career than Steve Nash, but he was a more well-rounded player. Kidd's scoring average and efficiency may have lagged behind the two-time MVP winner, but he was actually a comparable passer. He averaged 0.2 more dimes per game throughout his career, though his assist percentage trailed Nash's.
Plus, he rebounded and played defense. Kidd's total rebounding percentage of 10 percent is nearly double Nash's 5.4, and it resonates historically. In fact, he produced a 13.2 total rebounding percentage in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Nets, and that remains one of just five qualified seasons by a guard on the right side of 13 throughout all of NBA history.
Defensively, Kidd just got better throughout his career, even as time took his toll. He made nine All-Defensive squads during his 19 seasons in the Association, and his DBPM never slipped below zero. That's impressive in and of itself, as many players have at least one off year, usually at the beginning or the end of a career. But even when he was nearing 40 years old, Kidd put up a 2.4 DBPM during his one and only campaign with the New York Knicks, which ended up being the No. 2 mark of his career.
Kidd's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 12.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.5 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.9 PER, .507 TS%, 107 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 138.6 WS, 0.133 WS/48, 0.933 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2156.7 PP, 348.24 AS, 320.66 CC, 18.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.625 LMVP Shares
34. Allen Iverson
Years Played: 1996-2010
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies
Positional Rank: No. 5 SG
Allen Iverson is one of the greatest offensive talents the NBA has ever produced, and he succeeded as a one-man scoring machine with too much frequency for anyone to complain too loudly about his low shooting percentages and lackluster Career Contributions. After all, the former is largely because of the role he was so often asked to fill, and the latter is dragged down by the twilight of his career.
Controversial as he was and frustrating as he is to statistical formulas, Iverson averaged 30 points per game four times throughout his career and won just as many scoring titles. He remains one of the greatest pound-for-pound players of all time, and he's still inspiring to little guys everywhere who would otherwise see their dreams of playing professional basketball evaporate far too soon.
Iverson also benefited from the era in which he played. He hit his prime right during the time in which hero ball was fully accepted, and that allowed him to make full use of his talents alongside his lackluster teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers.
Iverson's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 26.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 33.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 20.9 PER, .518 TS%, 105 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 99.0 WS, 0.126 WS/48, 1.567 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1342.61 PP, 96.25 AS, 250.36 CC, 17.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.584 LMVP Shares
33. Patrick Ewing
Years Played: 1985-2002
Teams: New York Knicks, Seattle SuperSonics, Orlando Magic
Positional Rank: No. 8 C
Great, but not quite legendary. It's a phrase that sums up just about every aspect of Patrick Ewing's career.
He was a fantastic player throughout the regular season, posting big numbers for the New York Knicks and winning plenty of games, but he was never the best player in the league. Or even the best center, for that matter. It's one of the reasons he never won MVP but still managed to accumulate 1.424 MVP Shares, which gives him the No. 27 mark of all time in that category.
In the playoffs, he performed quite admirably. In fact, he averaged 20.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.2 blocks per game with a 19.6 PER, indicating that his performance was pretty much in line with the standard he set during the regular season. But, as Knicks fans know all too well, Ewing was never able to end the franchise's championship drought, one that has existed since the 1970s.
Offensively, he was a capable distributor and an efficient scorer. Defensively, he was named to the All-Defensive squad on three separate occasions. Pretty impressive on both ends of the court, even if he was never the league's best big man on either side.
Ewing's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.4 blocks
Ultimate Season: 28.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 4.0 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.0 PER, .553 TS%, 106 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 126.4 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 1.424 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2198.98 PP, 237.84 AS, 289.18 CC, 17.01 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.87 LMVP Shares
32. Dolph Schayes
Years Played: 1949-64
Teams: Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers
Positional Rank: No. 7 PF
In an interview with NBA.com, Dolph Schayes revealed one of the many reasons he became such a threatening scorer during the early days of the Association:
It was an incomplete fracture of a small bone in the wrist, so they were able to put a lightweight cast on it and seal it with a rubberized cover that allowed me to play. My game, I was a scorer and had a good outside shot. I would hit a few shots on the outside and then drive to the basket, but that was all mostly righty. When I broke my wrist, which was my shooting hand, I decided I would become a lefty, and played left-handed for six weeks while the thing healed.
When the cast was taken off I was able to be ambidextrous, and that increased my efficiency 1000%. I guess you could say that when I broke my wrist, it was a good break for me because of what it added to my game.
Schayes' on-court game was as strong as his pun game, as he dominated the early version of the NBA with his scoring and rebounding prowess.
He was consistently the most valuable player on his team, whether it was located in Syracuse or Philadelphia, and that allowed him to rack up 2.801 LMVP Shares throughout his career. It's a number that's since been beaten by only 16 players throughout NBA history.
Schayes' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Ultimate Season: 24.9 points, 16.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 22.0 PER, .488 TS%, 142.4 WS, 0.192 WS/48, 0.690 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1641.24 PP, 522.06 AS, 343.26 CC, 24.52 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 2.801 LMVP Shares
31. Gary Payton
Years Played: 1990-2007
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Positional Rank: No. 8 PG
A run of point guards kicks off with Gary Payton, who remains one of the best two-way contributors the position has ever seen. So suffocating that he was known as "The Glove," due to his ability to envelop whomever he was covering, Payton was named to the All-Defensive squad nine times and even became one of the precious few perimeter players to win Defensive Player of the Year.
That award has been handed out since the 1982-83 season, when Sidney Moncrief took home the original honor. Since then, Payton is the only 1-guard to win. Ever. And it's not as though he was only a defensive specialist, since he contributed quite a bit on offense, especially during the Seattle SuperSonics portion of his career.
Throughout his time in the Pacific Northwest, Payton averaged an impressive 18.2 points and 7.4 assists per game. He wasn't going to explode in either category all that often, but he was a consistent and creative contributor, one who could routinely make the highlight reels with some flashy passing on his fast-break runouts. Plus, given the energy he exerted on the less glamorous end each and every night, he shouldn't be criticized for not doing even more on offense.
Payton's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 24.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .528 TS%, 111 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 145.5 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 0.823 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1721.72 PP, 303.07 AS, 321.66 CC, 18.92 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.902 LMVP Shares
30. Isiah Thomas
Years Played: 1981-94
Teams: Detroit Pistons
Positional Rank: No. 7 PG
Isiah Thomas is an interesting case in these rankings, as his legend actually surpasses what we can glean from his statistical resume. So much of his greatness came from his grit and sheer determination. Above all else, that's what allowed him to lead the Detroit Pistons to multiple titles and complete heroic feats like scoring approximately 5,619 points in a game after spraining his ankle so badly he could barely walk.
Unfortunately, the metrics don't quite live up to the stories.
Thomas rarely racked up win shares, which led to him accumulating only 0.2 LMVP Shares during his career. Throughout all of NBA history, 190 players have earned more than that latter number, so that's not exactly a positive part of Thomas' resume. Strange, right?
The point guard was never particularly efficient, but his defense and leadership more than made up for the deficits. Plus, he was on stacked teams with players who were made better by his sheer presence, so in a way, he actually earned more win shares than he produced solely as an individual.
Thomas' Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 13.9 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.1 PER, .516 TS%, 106 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 80.7 WS, 0.109 WS/48, 0.318 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1921.41 PP, 549.79 AS, 176.47 CC, 13.57 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares
29. Bob Cousy
Years Played: 1950-70
Teams: Boston Celtics, Cincinnati Royals
Positional Rank: No. 6 PG
Bob Cousy was ahead of his time, dazzling opponents and fans with his fancy dribbling habits and no-look passes. The league's first superstar point guard was about entertaining as he helped the Boston Celtics win one game after another, and he took that first role rather seriously. Of course, he was also quite good at playing more traditional basketball.
The biggest knock on Cousy was simply that he wasn't even close to efficient. His 44.6 true shooting percentage was the result of knocking down 36.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and 77.5 percent of his looks at the charity stripe. Even in the early days, that was a terrible mark, as it's third-to-last among the 63 players who averaged at least 15 points per game between 1950 and 1963.
But Cousy made up for his shooting woes by rebounding the ball quite well for a point guard, playing tenacious defense and racking up the assists. During the same span, just five players managed to play over 300 games and average at least five successful feeds per contest, and the original great Celtic still remains No. 15 on the all-time list of career assists.
Cousy's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists
Ultimate Season: 21.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 9.5 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 19.8 PER, .446 TS%, 91.1 WS, 0.139 WS/48, 0.882 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1620.83 PP, 1328.37 AS, 213.22 CC, 15.23 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares
28. Walt Frazier
Years Played: 1967-80
Teams: New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers
Positional Rank: No. 5 PG
Walt Frazier possessed an impeccable sense of style both on and off the court. Whether he was dazzling the paparazzi with his fur coats or putting on a show for the New York Knicks, he knew how to work the cameras. And perhaps his best skill of all came on the defensive end of the court, where he routinely lured his man to sleep and used his devastatingly quick hands to take the ball and create an easy transition opportunity.
Though the point guard never managed to win LMVP, he did earn 1.46 LMVP Shares over the course of his career—more than all but three point guards in NBA history. That's the result of fitting in at the No. 2 slot once, placing No. 3 once more and adding two additional top-five finishes to his resume during his time with the Knicks. Frazier racked up numbers, but he was still capable of making those contributions that don't necessarily show up in a box score.
His playoff resume is also notable, especially because it's actually comparable to Bob Cousy's. While the Boston Celtics floor general did win six rings during his tenure in Beantown, Frazier can hold his own. Not only did Frazier win a pair of championships for the Knicks, but he was significantly more impressive as an individual contributor during the Association's second season.
Frazier's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 23.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 19.1 PER, .542 TS%, 104 ORtg, 98 DRtg, 113.5 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.151 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1980.9 PP, 689.63 AS, 248.78 CC, 19.14 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.456 LMVP Shares
27. Clyde Drexler
Years Played: 1983-98
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets
Positional Rank: No. 4 SG
It's easy to remember just one aspect of Clyde Drexler's game. Naturally, that would be his unbelievable spring-loaded exploits that left him gliding toward one dunk after another. However, just calling Drexler an athletic phenom would be selling him quite short, as there was so much more to his game.
For one, Drexler was a fantastic rebounder at his position, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game and topping out at 7.9 during his 1988-89 season with the Portland Trail Blazers. His lifetime total rebounding percentage of 9.9 is better than every other player at the position in these rankings. But that's still not all.
In addition to playing some underrated defense, Drexler produced a career assist percentage of 25.2. That leaves him trailing only Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Reggie Theus, Dwyane Wade and Paul Westphal at his position, so there's no room for doubt about his elite status as a distributing shooting guard. In 1985-86, he even dropped eight dimes per game for Rip City.
Drexler's all-around efforts might not get as much credit as they deserve—which is a lot.
Drexler's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks
Ultimate Season: 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.1 PER, .547 TS%, 114 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 135.6 WS, 0.173 WS/48, 0.778 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2504.15 PP, 449.57 AS, 295.85 CC, 19.72 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.475 LMVP Shares
26. Dwyane Wade
Years Played: 2003-Current
Teams: Miami Heat
Positional Rank: No. 3 SG
It still remains to be seen how much Dwyane Wade will continue building his legacy during the third distinct portion of his illustrious career. He's already carried the Miami Heat to one title during his days as the unquestioned alpha dog, scoring with aplomb and leaving no doubt that he was one of the very best players in the league. Then he was willing to take a backseat to LeBron James, forming one leg of a "Big Three" and adding two more rings to his total.
During the 2014-15 season, his first in the post-James era for the Heat where he's asked to do much more of the heavy lifting, he's been quite good while healthy, averaging 21.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game with a 22.7 PER. His assist percentage of 35.0 is actually significantly higher than his career average.
But that "while healthy" qualifier matters a lot. This 2-guard's knees are more than balky at this point, and his hamstrings have bothered him during the post-James era. There's no telling how much more vintage Wade we'll get.
No matter what he does throughout the rest of his career, though, Wade is already a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Not a single player at his position has been better at blocking shots, his 32 career assist percentage is the best ever by a 2-guard, and all of his performance metrics look fantastic.
He could retire right now and still be a legend, one on the verge of breaking into the historical top 25.
Wade's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
Ultimate Season: 30.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 25.1 PER, .567 TS%, 111 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 108.9 WS, 0.187 WS/48, 0.793 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2644.8 PP, 807.96 AS, 236.61 CC, 21.51 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.683 LMVP Shares
25. Scottie Pippen
Years Played: 1987-2004
Teams: Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers
Positional Rank: No. 6 SF
Was Michael Jordan's run of three-peats due, at least in part, to the presence of Scottie Pippen on those Chicago Bulls teams? Or was Pippen merely a product of Jordan's greatness, the premier coattail rider in the lengthy history of this sport?
Why can't it be a mixture of both?
Though Pippen obviously wasn't the clear-cut leader of those Bulls squads throughout the '90s, he was undoubtedly a crucial piece of the Chicago rosters. That much is clear even if you only look at the playoff metrics.
With 1,397.51 Advancement Shares, the versatile point forward ranks No. 5 all-time, trailing only Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But if he were really just along for the ride, his Playoff Performance score wouldn't be anywhere close to that type of positioning.
Nonetheless, Pippen's 3,111.68 Playoff Performance mark ranks No. 15 throughout all of NBA history, and that's by no means a shabby mark. After all, he averaged 17.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.9 steals per game with an 18.4 PER during his playoff career, all while playing great defense on a nightly basis.
He's going to get the credit he deserves here.
Pippen's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks
Ultimate Season: 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.9 steals, 1.2 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .536 TS%, 108 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 125.1 WS, 0.146 WS/48, 0.716 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 3111.68 PP, 1397.51 AS, 254.39 CC, 14.96 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.263 LMVP Shares
24. Julius Erving
Years Played: 1976-87
Teams: Virginia Squires (ABA), New York Nets (ABA), Philadelphia 76ers
Positional Rank: No. 5 SF
Julius Erving was at peak levels of "Dr. J" when he played for the Virginia Squires and New York Nets in the ABA. During those days, he helped revolutionize the sport of basketball with his afro-boasting, dunking prowess. It also didn't hurt that he averaged 28.7 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while leading the league in scoring three times and winning ABA MVP on just as many occasions.
Too bad none of that counts for our purposes, as we're looking solely at what was done in the NBA. Otherwise, he would have been in stiff competition for a top-10 spot.
Erving was still a dominant force when he joined the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring with remarkable frequency, winning MVP once and leading his Sixers to a title. But he wasn't quite so dominant against the tougher competition, and he's significantly hampered by only playing 836 career games when the 407 ABA contests are expunged from the record.
With his giant hands and larger-than-life personality, Erving helped the NBA transition into its prime years, which it still seems to be enjoying. At his best, he was one of the top 10 standouts the sport has ever played witness to, especially during his mind-boggling run in the early 1980s. But in these rankings, that ABA portion of his career hinders him, even if that may seem unfair.
Erving's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 22.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.5 blocks
Ultimate Season: 26.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.8 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 22.0 PER, .558 TS%, 111 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 106.2 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 1.407 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2475.96 PP, 548.5 AS, 207.32 CC, 18.85 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.668 LMVP Shares
23. John Stockton
Years Played: 1984-2003
Teams: Utah Jazz
Positional Rank: No. 4 PG
As a passer, John Stockton will likely never be matched.
He and Magic Johnson are the only players in NBA history to average more than 10 assists per game over the course of their careers, and Stockton maintained his per-contest mark for nearly 600 games longer. He remains the proud owner of the two best assist seasons in NBA history, and no one else has ever averaged more than 14 dimes per outing over the course of a season.
For that matter, no one who has played significant minutes has a higher career assist percentage than Stockton's 50.2. Chris Paul (46.5), Steve Nash (41.5), Rajon Rondo (41.5), Magic Johnson (40.9), Deron Williams (40.9) and Brevin Knight (40.1) are the only other qualified players above 40.
And, of course, there's his total assist record. Stockton's 15,806 career dimes are one of the sport's unbreakable marks. To put that number in perspective, Chris Paul could average 12 assists per game for the rest of his career, and he'd still need to play another 10 seasons in order to break the Utah Jazz legend's total. Steve Nash, if he somehow played another three seasons, would need to average 23 dimes per game and could only miss a few outings.
Stockton was more than a distributor, though. While his playoff record is shabby, he was blessed with the perfect system, perfect teammate and perfect coach for the vast majority of his playing days. Plus, while he was a limited scorer, he still thrived on the defensive end and is one of the most durable point guards of all time.
Stockton's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Ultimate Season: 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 14.5 assists, 3.2 steals, 0.3 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 21.8 PER, .608 TS%, 121 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 207.7 WS, 0.209 WS/48, 0.161 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2704.52 PP, 251.46 AS, 439.81 CC, 23.15 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.771 LMVP Shares
22. Elgin Baylor
Years Played: 1958-72
Teams: Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers
Positional Rank: No. 4 SF
As Jimmy Wexler, an amateur standout who competed against Elgin Baylor long before he made it to the NBA, told Dave McKenna in a Grantland article, Baylor was one of those legends who was just remarkably ahead of his time:
Here I am guarding Elgin Baylor, one-on-one. And he showed me basketball at a totally different level—another world, head and shoulders above anything I’d ever seen. He could do everything. He was a scorer. He could jump out of the gym. He reverse-dunked on me! You have to remember: Nobody did that before Elgin Baylor. That's not how basketball was played before him.
Baylor would live up to the legend during his time with the Lakers, contributing in virtually every aspect of the game and flat-out dominating as a scorer. During his fourth season in the Association, he averaged 38.3 points per game, and he did so with a true shooting percentage on the verge of hitting 50, which was impressive at the time.
Though his career was a bit short and he never managed to win a title—the Lakers went on a historic run and won it all right after he retired, strangely enough—it's not as though we can hold his playoff career against him. To an even greater extent than John Stockton, he advanced deep into the postseason time and time again and put up remarkable numbers there as well.
Baylor's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Ultimate Season: 38.3 points, 19.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 22.7 PER, .494 TS%, 104.2 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 1.659 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 2927.9 PP, 755.29 AS, 259.84 CC, 18.56 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 1.843 LMVP Shares
21. Bob Pettit
Years Played: 1954-65
Teams: Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks
Positional Rank: No. 6 PF
Not only was Bob Pettit one of the few big men who got the better of Bill Russell in a playoff series, but he was a consistently valuable piece for the Hawks throughout his underrated career. This power forward's name may not resonate like some of his counterparts from the late 1950s and early '60s, but he was still a brutalizing force. He earned more Career Contributions per season than all but five players in NBA history.
Though Pettit won LMVP only once—during the 1955-56 season, when he earned 13.8 win shares for the 33-win Hawks—he was consistently the leader of his team, banging around in the post on both ends of the floor. He finished his career with 3.19 LMVP Shares, a total that's only been surpassed by a dozen players throughout all of NBA history, eight of whom have yet to show up in this countdown.
While he and Alex Groza are the only players in NBA history to average more than 20 points per game each and every season of their career (Michael Jordan was literally one point shy during his final year), Pettit played in only 11 seasons and retired at age 32. His resume is limited to just 792 games, easily the lowest number of any player ranked in the top 25.
To put that in perspective, Carmelo Anthony moved past him on the games-played leaderboard during the early portion of the 2014-15 campaign.
Pettit's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Ultimate Season: 31.1 points, 20.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists
Career Advanced Stats: 25.3 PER, .511 TS%, 136 WS, 0.213 WS/48, 2.628 MVP Shares
Performance Metrics: 1892.88 PP, 635.8 AS, 350.15 CC, 31.83 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 3.19 LMVP Shares
20. John Havlicek
Years Played: 1962-78
Teams: Boston Celtics
Positional Rank: No. 3 SF
For the No. 3 player at a position known for its versatility, it should come as no surprise that John Havlicek was just about as well-rounded as possible. Not only was he an adept scorer who used his knack for mid-range jumpers and his athleticism to terrorize the opposition, but he was a great rebounder for a small forward, a threat to rack up plenty of assists and one of the better defenders the NBA has witnessed.
It's the last aspect of his game that should stand out most. Though averaging 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks per game isn't all that impressive, Havlicek was selected to the All-Defensive squad on eight separate occasions. He earned 74.1 defensive win shares over the course of his career—the No. 12 mark of all time regardless of position—and even in his late 30s, he was submitting positive DBPMs.
That, coupled with his overall longevity, helps him push past Bob Pettit and lead off the top 20. Havlicek really never enjoyed a bad season, earning 6.4 win shares during his age-22 rookie season with the Boston Celtics and finishing his career a 16 years later by posting 5.1 more. No small forward has ever suited up in more games, and it's not as though this lifetime Celtic was ever just playing for the sake of playing.
Havlicek's Statistical Glossary
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ultimate Season: 28.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks
Career Advanced Stats: 17.5 PER, .492 TS%, 101 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 131.7 WS, 0.136 WS/48, 0.217 MVP Shares